Prostate Cancer Treatment
Cancer of the prostate is the most common type of cancer among American men. It is estimated that one out of every 10 American men will develop prostate cancer before the age of 85. The risk of developing prostate cancer greatly increases with age. It rarely occurs in men younger than 40.
The prostate is a male gland normally the size of a walnut. It secretes a milky fluid that is part of the semen needed for ejaculation. The prostate gland lies at the base of the penis, just below the urinary bladder and in front of the rectum. It surrounds the first inch of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder.
The cause of prostate cancer remains unknown. Several factors associated with a higher rate of prostate cancer, however, have been identified. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases as a man ages. A family history of prostate cancer in a brother or a father also doubles one’s chances of getting prostate cancer. There may be evidence a high-fat diet is associated with developing prostate cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
In the very early stages of prostate cancer, there usually are no symptoms. When symptoms do develop, they vary according to the size and location of the tumor and are often the same as those for benign prostate conditions. In fact, it is more likely that any of these symptoms would indicate prostate enlargement, known as benign prostatic hypertrophy, infection, or other conditions rather than cancer. Still, any symptom should be checked by a healthcare provider. Only a healthcare provider conducting the proper tests can determine for sure whether the condition is cancerous or benign. Symptoms of prostate problems include:
- Weak or interrupted urine flow.
- Inability to urinate.
- Difficulty in starting or stopping urination.
- Need to urinate frequently, especially at night.
- Blood in the urine.
- Painful or burning urination.
- Continuing pain in lower back, pelvis, or upper thighs.
Every man over the age of 40 should have a digital rectal examination (DRE) as part of his regular annual physical checkup. In addition to the DRE, it is recommended men 50 and over have an annual prostate-specific antigen blood test (PSA). If there is a family history (father or brother) or if the individual is African-American, screenings should begin at age 40. If either digital rectal examination or the prostate-specific blood test is abnormal, further evaluation including a biopsy should be considered.
Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer
Removal of a small tissue sample and its examination under a microscope, a procedure known as a biopsy, is the ONLY way to determine conclusively if a growth is cancerous.
After you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you have several treatment options including:
Removal of the Prostate
Surgery can be performed to remove the prostate if the cancer is found in its early stages. Surgery may help prevent further spread of the cancer to other parts of the body. da Vinci Prostatectomy is the #1 choice for treatment of localized prostate cancer in the United States, and is rapidly being chosen by more men, as well as their doctors, worldwide. da Vinci Prostatectomy is a minimally invasive, robotic-assisted surgical procedure that removes the cancerous prostate gland and related structures.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill prostate cancer cells. Because the rays cannot be directed perfectly, they may damage both cancer cells and nearby healthy cells. If the dose of radiation is small and spread over time, the healthy cells are able to recover and survive, and the cancer cells eventually die.
Radiation therapy usually is given for prostate cancer that has not spread to distant areas of the body. Like surgery, this therapy works best when the cancer is located in a small area.
Hormone Therapy is primarily utilized for prostate cancer that has spread in patients not healthy enough for curative therapy (those listed above) or in patients where curative therapy has failed. Two types of hormone therapy can be used:
Surgical removal of the testicles, which make male hormones
Prescription drugs that prevent the production or block the action of testosterone and other male hormones and will aid in shrinking the tumor.