Prostate cancer occurs in the small walnut-shaped gland in males, called the prostate, which produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly found cancer in men. This type of cancer may grow slowly and stay in the prostate gland for many years or it may grow aggressively and spread quickly.
It’s important to detect the cancer early — when it’s still confined to the prostate gland — to increase the chances of successful treatment.
Men with early stage prostate cancer may not experience any signs or symptoms. But advanced prostate cancer may cause the following signs and symptoms:
- Difficulty urinating
- Decreased force in the stream of urine
- Blood in the urine
- Blood in the semen
- Bone pain
- Unintended weight loss
- Erectile dysfunction
The exact cause of prostate cancer is currently unknown.
Prostate cancer begins when the DNA of prostate cells changes (or in other words, mutates). These changes likely come from a combination of genetics and/or a poor lifestyle. These mutations tell the cells to grow and divide rapidly and abnormally. These cells then grow uncontrolled, when other normal cells would continue to function normally.
As more and more abnormal cells form, they develop a tumor that can grow in size to invade nearby tissue. Over time, some abnormal cells may gain the ability to invade and spread to other distant parts of the body.
How Prostate Cancer is Screened
Men in their 50s are encouraged to discuss the benefits of screening for prostate cancer with their primary care physician. During the appointment, the physician will review the patient’s risk factors and learn about patient preferences for screening.
Patients may need to have these discussions sooner if they’re black, have a family history of prostate cancer, or have other risk factors.
Prostate screening tests might include:
- Digital rectal exam (DRE). During a DRE, the doctor will insert a gloved, lubricated finger into the patient’s rectum to examine their prostate. If the doctor detects any abnormalities in the texture, shape, or size of the gland, the patient may need further tests.
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. This test involves taking a blood sample from a vein in the patient’s arm and analyzing it for PSA, a substance naturally produced by the prostate gland. If an abnormal level is found in the blood, the patient may have prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement, or cancer.
Diagnosing Prostate Cancer
If the prostate cancer screening tests detect an abnormality, the physician may recommend further tests, such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or a prostate biopsy, to determine whether the patient has prostate cancer.
A patient’s prostate cancer treatment options depend on several factors, such as how fast their cancer is growing, whether it has spread, the patient’s overall health, and the potential benefits or risks of treatment.
Treatment options may include:
- Surgery to remove the prostate
- Radiation therapy to kill cancer cells
- Freezing or heating prostate tissue
- Hormone therapy to stop the body from producing testosterone
- Targeted drug therapy
- Alternative medicine to help the patient cope with the side effects of treatment
Patients who are experiencing symptoms of prostate cancer, need screening for the condition, or have been diagnosed with prostate cancer should schedule an appointment with Dr. David Lee of UCI Urology.