Note: The information on cancer types on the ACRF website is not designed to provide medical or professional advice and is for information only. If you have any health problems or questions please consult your doctor.
What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate Cancer begins with small changes or abnormalities in the shape and size of the prostate gland cells. Eventually, these cells form tumours.
The prostate is a small gland that surrounds the urethra and is located below the bladder. Its primary function is to produce fluid or semen that protects and transports sperm.
How Does Prostate Cancer Develop?
Prostate Cancer develops when cells in the prostate gland regenerate abnormally. Prostate cancer grows slowly and usually remains confined to the prostate gland.
Prostate cancer only affects males since women do not have a prostate gland. It is one of the most common forms of cancer in men.
How Does Prostate Cancer Spread?
Prostate Cancer can spread when cells break away from the tumour and travel through the lymphatic system or bloodstream to other parts of the body where they can create secondary tumours.
When cancer cells spread it is called metastasis. Usually, prostate cancer metastasis occurs in the lymph nodes and bones. Other common locations include lungs, liver and brain.
Types of Prostate Cancer
The type of Prostate Cancer that develops depends on the type of cell where it starts. The most common form of prostate cancer develops in the gland cells of the prostate. This is called adenocarcinoma, or it is sometimes referred to as acinar adenocarcinoma.
Other types of prostate cancer are rare. These develop from different cells in the prostate. For example, neuroendocrine prostate cancer is a small-cell prostate cancer that develops from neuroendocrine cells.
Prostate Cancer Stages
Staging describes the size and severity of the cancer and helps to inform the diagnostic and treatment approach. Early prostate cancer stages include Stage 0 (pre-invasive cancer) and Stages 1, 2A and 2B. Advanced or secondary prostate cancer stages include Stages 2B, 3A-C and 4.
Prostate Cancer Signs and Symptoms
A sign is something that someone else may notice, such as a lump or mass, which may be detected by a doctor during a rectal examination.
A symptom is a something the patient may feel or notice, for example, changes in the urinary stream or pain while urinating. In the early stages of prostate cancer, there may not be any signs or symptoms.
Advanced prostate cancer may produce several different symptoms.
How Does Prostate Cancer Produce Signs and Symptoms?
Signs and symptoms in prostate cancer are usually not noticed until the cancer is advanced. As the tumour in the prostate gland grows, it may interfere with bladder function causing symptoms related to urinary function.
Other symptoms may occur once the cancer cells spread from the prostate gland to other organs forming new tumours. It is not uncommon for the prostate cancer cells to spread to the lymph nodes of the pelvis and spine causing hip and back pain.
What Are The Common General Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?
It should be noted that many Prostate Cancer signs and symptoms are also associated with other diseases and conditions and may not necessarily indicate prostate cancer.
Most prostate cancers grow slowly in comparison to other cancers. In its early stages, prostate cancer may not have any signs or symptoms.
In advanced prostate cancer, the patient may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Problems getting and maintaining an erection
- Needing to urinate more often or a weak urinary stream
- Pain while ejaculating
- Loss of bladder or bowel control.
If the cancer has spread, the patient may experience numbness or weakness in the legs and feet, or pain in the hips, back, or chest.
If patients are experiencing any prostate cancer signs and symptoms, or if they suspect something is not quite right, they should visit their doctor.
The earlier prostate cancer is detected, the more likely it is that treatment can successfully remove the cancer and prevent it from reoccurring.
Prostate Cancer Treatment
Because most Prostate Cancers are slow growing, there are a variety of treatment options that are less aggressive and may not require surgery. These include active surveillance, prostatectomy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy.
There are many treatments available for localised Prostate Cancer. Options include:
- Active surveillance (watchful waiting)
- Radiation including conformal external beam radiotherapy, brachytherapy with seeds and high dose rate brachytherapy
- High intensity focused ultrasound
- Hormone therapy.
Surgery with curative intent removes the whole prostate (radical prostatectomy). The main side-effects are impotence and incontinence.
Radical radiotherapy can also be given with curative outcomes, either with external radiation or by implanting radioactive seeds (brachytherapy). Side-effects are similar to surgery, however bowel problems may also occur.
If the cancer has spread, hormone therapy reduces the stimulus of the male hormones. Removing the testis or injecting luteinising hormone releasing hormone (LHRH), or anti-androgen hormones, can delay the disease for three to four years and may improve outcomes if given early with radiation in high risk patients. When hormone resistance occurs, chemotherapy mixed with certain medications can control symptoms.
An emerging body of research is indicating that knowing a tumour’s genomic profile could be more important for successful treatment than knowing its location or size. As each tumour’s genomic profile is unique, this approach is often referred to as personalised or precision medicine.
Some of the treatments for prostate cancer have side effects. Common side effects include incontinence, erectile dysfunction and weight gain.
Prostate Cancer Risk and Prevention
There are no specific known causes of Prostate Cancer. However, scientists have identified several factors which can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
As with all cancers, the risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age. Most cases are diagnosed in men over the age of 50. The overall risk of developing prostate cancer before the age of 85 is 1 in 5.
Ethnic background is another known risk factor. Prostate cancer is more common in men of African-Caribbean and African descent and is less common in men of Asian descent.
The risk of developing prostate is greater for men who had a male relative develop prostate cancer before reaching 60 years old.
Also, some research shows a link between prostate cancer and lifestyle choices, such as a diet high in red meat or high-fat dairy products. Research continues to identify other links between lifestyle and environmental factors and prostate cancer.
There are no known proven strategies to prevent prostate cancer. Researchers suggest adopting a healthy lifestyle and getting regular check-ups to catch any irregularities early.
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