Overview – What is it?
Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that affects the prostate gland and it occurs due to growth of malignant (cancerous) cells in the prostate gland. The prostate gland produces the seminal fluid which nourishes and transports sperms. Some of the risk factors for prostate cancer are age, obesity, and family history. It can cause symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, fatigue and swelling of the legs. Diagnosing prostate cancer can be done using biopsy, digital rectal examination, and prostate specific antigen, among other tests. Prostate cancer treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy. To prevent this type of cancer regular screening, exercising, and checking your diet and weight are some of the things a man can do.
Causes – What causes it?
Like most cancers, the definite cause for prostate cancer is not known. However, there are a number of risk factors which include:
- Age: Men above the age of 65 are at most risk of getting prostate cancer as compared to those under the age of 40.
- Family history: If someone in your family has had prostate cancer then that increases your risk of getting this type of cancer.
- Previous history with cancer: A man who has had cancer such as kidney cancer, bladder or thyroid cancer has an increased risk of developing prostate cancer compared to one who has not had cancer before.
- Prostatitis: This occurs when there is inflammation of the prostate gland due to bacterial infection. A man who has prostatitis has a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Obesity: Men who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Obesity has been linked to high-grade prostate cancer.
- Diet: This mostly affects men who consume a lot of processed foods and foods that are high in fats.
Symptoms – What do you feel?
Prostate cancer can go on for years without being discovered because it does not show any signs in its early stages. Therefore, regular screening is important for all men. Some of the symptoms that can occur due to prostate cancer include:
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Discomfort when urinating
- Not being able to urinate even when you have the urge to
- Erectile dysfunction
- Pain in the upper thighs, hips or lower back
- Swelling of the prostate gland
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss
Diagnosis – How do you diagnose it?
- Initial consultation: During a consultation, the doctor will get to know your symptoms, your medical history and determine whether you are at risk of getting prostate cancer.
- Digital Rectal Exam (DRE): This involves inserting a lubricated gloved finger into the rectum to enable the doctor to examine the prostate and check for any abnormalities in the shape, texture and size of the gland. This is what determines if you need further tests.
- Prostate Specific Antigen Test (PSA blood test): This is used to measure the level of protein in the blood; an increased protein level may indicate the presence of prostate cancer.
- Imaging tests: These include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which gives detailed images of organs inside the body using magnetic and radio waves. The doctor is able to see the prostate gland and notice any abnormalities.
- Transrectal Ultrasound: This test is also used to get images of the prostate gland using high frequency sound waves.
- Biopsy: This involves getting sample tissue from the prostate gland and looking at it under a microscope to determine whether there are any cancer cells present.
Treatment – How do you treat it?
- Surgery: This is done to remove part of the cancer tumour, or the entire prostate gland and is usually followed by other treatments. The different types of prostate cancer surgeries are:
- Transurethral Resection (TUR/ TURP) which involves removing the inner part of the prostate gland.
- Radical Prostatectomy which is the removal of the entire prostate gland.
- Orchidectomy which involves removing the testicles in a case where the cancer has spread to the testicles.
- Chemotherapy: This treatment involves using anti-cancer drugs to kill the cancer cells.
- Radiotherapy: Involves using high-energy beams to kill the cancer cells externally or internally.
- Brachytherapy: This is a type of radiation that uses radioactive material which is implanted into the body to allow a doctor to deliver high doses of radiation on the affected area.
- Hormone therapy: This is the use of drugs to prevent the cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.
- Image Guided radiation therapy (IGRT): This uses a combination of x-ray imaging and radiation treatment to track daily changes in the shape and location of the tumour and the normal tissue surrounding the tumour.
- Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-DRT): This uses a set of CT images to identify the tumour and normal tissue cells that need to be avoided during radiotherapy to prevent the radiation from destroying or harming the normal cells.
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): This treatment adjusts the shape and intensity of the radiation beams used to destroy the cancer cells.
Prevention – How do you prevent it?
Prevention of prostate cancer is based on reducing the risk factors for this type of cancer by:
- Getting regular screening for prostate cancer, especially if you are at a high risk of developing it and if you are older than 50 years.
- Getting enough vitamin D which keeps the testosterone levels in check preventing the prostate gland from growing bigger.
- Eating healthy by ensuring that you have more fruits and vegetables and reducing the intake of meat, foods with a lot of fats as well as processed food.
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Doing regular exercises
- Increasing the consumption of antioxidants
- Not smoking
- Avoiding excessive alcohol intake
- Getting treatment for prostatitis