Today were are going to look at Part One on understanding prostate cancer. We will look at the prostate itself and describe what prostate cancer is. We will also look at some of the more well known causes of prostate cancer and we will look at the important steps of diagnosing prostate cancer. In Part Two we will also look at the management, treatment, and prognosis of this disease.
Prostate Cancer is a very common cancer that affects the prostate. It is something that is often highly publicized. It is often seen as the cause of some deaths and can be found in many cases on autopsy. It has similar symptoms as other prostate problems such as prostatitis and benign hyperplastic prostate or BPH.
Prostate cancer is often a very slow growing cancer. In most cases, the cancer remains in the prostate but in some cases it can move to the surrounding tissues. Metastasis is when is spreads to different tissues. In rare cases the cancer can move to the brain, bone, and other parts of the body. These more invasive cancers have a worse outcome.
What is the Prostate?
The prostate is a gland that is needed in producing the fluid in semen. The prostate , along with other glands, produce a mucus fluid that helps keep sperm alive. This gland is a large part of the male reproductive system. It is located near the bladder. It is only found in male, but a similar type of organ is found in women. Women though, can not get prostate cancer.
Causes of Prostate Cancer
Many different elements play into causing prostate cancer. It is likely that not everything is known. Age seems to be the primary cause. As men age, the likelyhood of prostate cancer increases dramatically. Other important risk factors are obesity, family history, diet, sexual activity [or lack of]. High blood pressure can also be a risk factor and there may be a small risk with lack of exercise. Even, high alcohol intake may increase your risk.
With a first degree relative that has prostate cancer, your risk increases directly.
It is unknown of a specific gene is causative for prostate cancer. But additional research is looking at specific chromosomes. Mutations that occur in these genes may lead to an understanding at the connection between genetics and cancer0..
This is an area that is not very well known. In some circles, it is believed that a good diet with plenty of fiber will help prevent prostate cancer. But just as interesting, is the belief that some foods has a risk of getting prostate cancer. It is currently being studied the possible link of certain such as fruits, vegetables, red meat, lack of vitamin D, excess taking of multivitamins, folic acid supplements, and high alcohol intake. These are still being studied and are currently just risks rather than a direct correlation.
Some studies point to some medications at causing a risk. Medications for cholesterol such as statins may actually decrease the risk of prostate cancer.
Agent Orange – was a chemical that some US war veterans came into contact with. It is believed that a double increase in risk and a possible risk for re-occurance was seen.
Elevated Testosterone levels may also increase the risk for prostate cancer. Therefore, consideration must be taken in when excess testosterone is given in a patient. Obesity is also a risk.
This risk is just being studied. A possible link may exist with a retrovirus that may cause a protein to be produced that is found in prostate cancer. This is just in the beginning stages of being tested. No significant hard data can confirm this possibility.
Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer
This is where things can get debatable in regards to prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is slow growing and the current belief is that early diagnosis is not necessarily worth the risks of testing and treatment.
This means that early diagnosis, although occurs, is not something that is a prime concern. Starting at age 50 – this is when diagnosis is really something that should be addressed.
The American Cancer Society has discussed this when they said, “Research has not yet proven that the potential benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment.”
The age of diagnosis may be lowered to 45 if a few conditions or concerns are met:
1.) African American – increased risk is seen and diagnosis is often begun earlier
2.) Prostate cancer in brother before the age of 65
3.) Prostate cancer in father before the age of 65.
(These are not AND but rather OR – which means that if you fall into any one of these three – diagnosis should begin earlier.)
The only test that can confirm prostate cancer is a prostate biopsy. This is when several small pieces of the prostate are removed for examination under a microscope.
Other diagnostic procedures may include:
1.) A urine test to check for a protein.
2.) Another test is a blood work for PSA.
3.) A digital rectal examination or DRE is a relatively non invasive way for a medical provider to examine the prostate.
4.) A cytoscopy allows a camera that is flexible to travel through the urethra
6.) MRI is another way to take a close look at the prostate. It allows for evaluation of the tissue of the prostate. A clinical suspicion of prostate cancer can be seen. At this point, confirmation is done through a biopsy.
Tune in to Part Two for more information on Prostate Cancer.