Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer found in men. Despite the fact that there aren’t typically any early warning signs, most people catch this problem before it becomes too serious thanks to annual exams.
Although prostate cancer advances at a minor rate, it’s best to pinpoint the issue as soon as possible. The sooner the cancer is detected, the better chance the cancer won’t spread (or metastasize) to other parts of the body. There are many forms of treatment for prostate cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, radiation, and/or cryotherapy. Additionally, depending on the age of the individual and the extent of the disease, some doctors may even recommend a “wait and watch” strategy.
Risk Factors and Causes
There are risk factors to be aware of, including age, race, diet, and family history. The greatest risk factor of prostate cancer is age; with the chance of developing this disease greatly increasing after the age of 50. Approximately two-thirds of all men diagnosed with prostate cancer are age 65 or older.
- Note: Just because it’s most common for men age 50 or older to be diagnosed with this disease does not mean that others, such as younger individuals, are safe.
Family history is also a major risk factor. Men with relatives who were diagnosed with prostate cancer are considered to be at a higher risk. This is particularly true if your father and/or brother have been diagnosed.
There may not be any early warning signs of prostate cancer, but once the glands start to swell or the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, these symptoms may occur:
- Blood in urine or semen
- Frequent need to urinate
- Difficulty starting or stopping during urination
- A weak urinary stream
- Inability to urinate while standing up
- A painful sensation during urination or ejaculation
There are additional symptoms associated with advanced prostate cancer, with some of these including:
- Dull pain in the pelvis, lower back, or ribs
- Loss of weight and/or appetite
- Swelling of lower body extremities
There are two tests commonly used to diagnose prostate cancer. The first and most common is the digital rectal exam, in which the doctor is able to feel the prostate to find any lumpy areas. Along with this, your doctor will likely order a blood test to detect a substance known as prostate specific antigen (PSA). When both of these tests are used, it is easier to detect any abnormalities that could show prostate cancer is present.
There are four stages of prostate cancer, each of which is approached in a unique way.
- Stage 1 – Treated by the “watch and wait” approach or surgery to remove the gland.
- Stage 2 – During this stage, treatment with radiation or chemotherapy is important to keep the cancer from spreading.
- Stage 3 – Prostate cancer in this stage has moved beyond the prostate, but has yet to reach the lymph nodes, bladder, rectum, or any distant organs.
- Stage 4 – In this stage, the cancer has already spread to the lymph nodes, bladder, rectum, and/or other organs.
The long term prognosis of somebody with prostate cancer is based largely on the stage in which it is diagnosed. This form of cancer, just like others, is best treated when found in stage 1 or 2. Doctors consider stage 4 prostate cancer incurable; however, there are treatment options that can reduce symptoms while also prolonging the person’s life.
Once again, this depends largely on the stage of the cancer. In the early stages, it’s easy to improve the prognosis through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. In late stages, doctors rely on many of these same methods to ease symptoms, although curing the disease in its entirety is not typically possible.
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