Cancer, which is also called malignancy is an abnormal development of cells that can grow in any part of the body including breast, skin, lung, kidney, colon and even prostate. Prostate cancer is a serious health condition that usually affects older men. Most of the cases occur in men more than 65 years of age. Prostate cancer is a quite common type of cancer, but has high chances of getting cured, if diagnosed in early stages. This cancer grows in the prostate gland and sticks between the penis and the bladder. Prostate plays a crucial role in performing many bodily functions such as producing fluid that produces and transports sperm secreting prostate specific antigen (PSA), which is a protein that helps semen to stay in its liquid state. Semen is the substance that contains sperm and gets released during ejaculation. In addition, it also helps in controlling urine.
Prostate is a small walnut shaped gland that is present in a male's lower abdomen. Basically, it is found under the bladder and the urethra. When cancer starts growing in the prostate, it is called prostate cancer. This cancer can even spread to other parts of the body. Many prostate cancers grow slowly, while some may be aggressive and grow quickly. To know more about it, Onlymyhealth editorial team talked to Dr. Tejinder Kataria, Chairperson, Radiation Oncology, Cancer Institute, Medanta - The Medicity, about the symptoms, causes, stages, types, diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer symptoms
In some cases, prostate cancer may show no signs or symptoms in the early stages. Like in non-aggressive type of prostate cancer, you might not experience any particular signs. Whereas in aggressive type of prostate cancer, there is a realisable list of symptoms. Prostate cancer symptoms majorly include urinary problems and sexual problems, and sometimes pain as well. According to Dr. Tejinder, the main symptoms of advanced prostate cancer are listed below:
- Difficulty in controlling urine
- Reduced force and pressure in the stream of urine
- Blood in urine
- Drastic weight loss
- Blood in the semen
- Erectile dysfunction
Prostate cancer causes
Dr. Tejinder said, "There are no specific causes of prostate cancer as such but there can be dietary or risk factors, but family predisposition can be a cause." This fact is clear that prostate cancer starts developing when the glandular cells in the prostate change in their DNA. Basically, a cell's DNA tells a cell what to do and when the DNA changes, it directly means that the abnormal cells have started growing and the normal cells would surely die. Prostate cancer develops when specific changes occur, usually in glandular cells. The cancerous or even precancerous cells in the prostate gland are known as prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN). The changes in the cells are slow and non cancerous initially. But, they can become cancerous with time. As per Dr. Tejinder, the main risk factors of prostate cancer are:
1. Family history
The role of family history is a very common thing in this type of cancer and usually plays a prevalent role in the development of prostate cancer in man's body. Sometimes, there are people in your family who had prostate cancer. So, if your father, grandfather or uncle had prostate cancer then you are at a higher risk of developing it.
2. Dietary factors
Oils such as mustard oil, desi ghee and corn oil can also contribute towards the development of prostate cancer. Persistent consumption of a high saturated fat diet can put you at a higher risk of getting advanced prostate cancer. It is recommended to consume soyabean or soy foods as it contains the plan estrogen and it helps in lowering PSA levels, further reducing the chances of prostate cancer.
Like many other diseases, smoking can also increase your chances of developing prostate cancer. Heavy smokers might even be at a high risk of death from prostate cancer as it increases the levels of PSA. So, you can talk to your doctor about techniques for quitting smoking.
Age is the most common risk factor of prostate cancer. As this cancer usually occurs in middle aged or older men, so the older a man is, the higher the chance of getting prostate cancer. More than 80% cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed after the age 50. Other rare prostate cancer risk factors are obesity, chemical exposure, vasectomy, inflammation and sexually transmitted infection.
Prostate cancer stages
Like every type of cancer, prostate cancer also has 4 stages, in which stage 1 to 3 are curable, and stage 4 is incurable. Effective treatment can be done in stage one. Here are the four stages of prostate cancer:
Stage 1: In this early stage, cancer is only present in the prostate gland and is growing slowly. Treatment and cure is highly possible at this stage
Stage 2 and 3: In this stage, the prostate cancer has spread to nearby tissues
Stage 4: The tumor size is very large by this stage and the cancer has spread to other nearby parts of the body, such as the lungs or bones
Prostate cancer diagnosis
One has to visit the urologist after experiencing the symptoms like frequency in urination, blood in urine, etc, to know the reason behind these. According to Dr. Tejinder, for prostate cancer diagnosis, the doctor firstly conducts a physical examination called the digital rectal exam (DRE). This is done to check any abnormality of the prostate manually with the finger. A blood test tells about the PSA levels produced by the prostate. The further tests that are done for prostate cancer diagnosis are PCA3 test, ultrasound and a biopsy. Routine MRI and CT scan are done for monitoring and observation.
Prostate cancer treatment
Prostate cancer treatment totally depends on the stage of the cancer, along with some other risk factors. Prostate cancer has an effect on your fertility too, so your doctor will come up with a proper cancer treatment plan and provide you with several fertility options too. If the cancer is non aggressive, your doctor just choose to monitor, observe and wait, and this process is called active surveillance. According to this method, you will not be treated but there will be regular checkups with the doctor to watch the prostate cancer. But, if the cancer is very aggressive, then it might have also spread to your lymph nodes and other organs of the body. The treatment procedures for such types of aggressive cancers are surgery (prostatectomy, in which a part or all of your prostate gland is removed), radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and cryotherapy. More than 90% patients get cured, whether you do surgery or radiation therapy.
So, these were the symptoms, causes, types, stages, diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer by Dr. Tejinder Kataria, Oncologist, Medanta. If you are experiencing any of the above mentioned signs or symptoms, then you should visit your doctor or an oncologist for further examination and diagnosis to receive the right medical treatment. This is done to know if its prostate cancer causing these symptoms or any other health condition. You can prevent prostate cancer by having a balanced diet, maintaining healthy weight and making certain lifestyle changes.
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