What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer happens when abnormal cancerous cells develop and grow together to form masses called tumors in the small, walnut-shaped prostate gland in a man’s pelvis. One of the most common types of cancer in men, prostate cancer is typically slow-growing and, when detected early, may be treated in multiple ways including active surveillance. In some cases, however, the cancer may be more aggressive and spread quickly.
Most all prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas, which develop from the glandular cells that make semen.
Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care for patients with cancer and the diagnosis, treatment and management of prostate cancer. You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health.
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
There are often no early symptoms that are specific to prostate cancer. When symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Burning or pain during urination
- Difficulty urinating
- More frequent urinating at night
- Weak urine stream
- Erectile dysfunction
- Numbness, weakness or pain in the hips or legs
To determine if someone has prostate cancer, we ask about medical history and conduct a physical exam. We also use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. Diagnostic procedures can include:
Digital rectal exam: For this test, the physician inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to examine the prostate for abnormalities in the texture, shape or size of the gland.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test: In this test, a blood sample is taken from a vein and sent to a lab to be analyzed for PSA, a substance naturally produced by cells of the prostate. A small amount of PSA in the bloodstream is normal. If a higher-than-normal level is found, it may indicate benign (non-cancerous) conditions such as infection or inflammation of the prostate or benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), which is an enlarged prostate. Higher-than-normal PSA levels may also be caused by prostate cancer.
Ultrasound: The physician may order a transrectal ultrasound to better examine the prostate. Ultrasound uses soundwaves to create an image of the prostate gland. The procedure involves inserting a small probe into the rectum to image the prostate. Biopsies of the prostate may be taken during the ultrasound test.
Prostate biopsy: During this procedure, the physician may collect a sample of cells using thin needles inserted into the prostate. The tissue samples are analyzed in a lab to determine whether cancer cells are present.
Prostate Cancer Causes
Most cases of prostate cancer result from a mutation in cell DNA, and researchers aren’t sure of the cause. Certain lifestyle habits seem to increase the risk of prostate cancer, including:
- Eating red meat and fatty foods
Risk factors that may contribute to prostate cancer include:
Age: Most prostate cancers develop in men over the age of 50.
Ethnicity: African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer, and they are more at risk for aggressive or advanced prostate cancer.
Family history: If close male relatives have had prostate cancer, the risk may be increased. Family history of breast, ovarian and colorectal cancers can also signal an increased risk for prostate cancer.
While many risk factors cannot be controlled, there are ways you can help prevent prostate cancer:
Ask about your risk: If you have a known risk of prostate cancer, ask your physician about screening tests.
Eat a healthy diet: Eat a diet low in red meat and fatty food and consume plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
Exercise: Regular activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and better overall health.
Prostate Cancer Prognosis
In general, prostate cancer that is detected early and which is still confined to the prostate gland, is associated with higher survival. Prostate cancer has one of the highest survival rates of any type of cancer.
Prostate Cancer Treatment and Recovery
Prostate cancer treatment depends upon how far the condition has progressed, a person’s overall health and preferences. Treatment methods may include:
Chemotherapy uses special drugs designed to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be administered as a pill or injected into the bloodstream and may be given before surgery to shrink a tumor, after surgery to kill remaining cancer cells and as a means of reducing symptoms. It is often an option for advanced cancer or if other treatments don’t work.
Freezing Prostate Tissue
During this procedure, called cryosurgery, small needles are inserted in the prostate guided by ultrasound images. A very cold gas flows through the needles into the prostate. This causes surrounding tissue to freeze, killing cancer cells.
Hormones affect the normal prostate cells and prostate cancer can also be affected by hormones. These male hormones are called androgens and testosterone is one type of androgen. Hormone therapy treatments for prostate cancer block androgens from reaching cancer cells.
These treatments use the body’s immune system to fight cancer. A personal vaccine against prostate cancer is developed by removing some of the man’s immune cells and then exposing them in the laboratory to a prostate cancer protein. Those cells are then injected back into the body through a vein, helping the body’s immune system to fight the prostate cancer
This treatment uses radiation to kill cancer cells. The radiation is directed specifically to the prostate. Or, radioactive seeds may be implanted into the prostate tissue.
A surgeon may remove the entire prostate, surrounding tissue and a few lymph nodes.
Watchful Waiting or Active Surveillance
A man may undergo follow-up blood tests, rectal exams and biopsies to monitor cancer progression.
Prostate cancer can recur, so follow-up care after successful treatment is important. In addition, the cancer itself and some treatments can result in complications. These include:
Erectile dysfunction: This problem can be a result of prostate cancer or its treatment, including surgery, radiation or hormone treatments. Treatments are available.
Incontinence: Both prostate cancer and its treatment can cause urinary incontinence. Treatment options may include medications, catheters and surgery.
Spread of the cancer to other areas: Prostate cancer can spread to surrounding lymph nodes and other organs throughout the body.