Prostate Cancer

Published On 07/11/2011

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The fear of having prostate cancer can be devastating. However, it is most successfully treated when found early. Consider these statistics from the American Cancer Society:

  • Ninety-one percent of all prostate cancers are discovered while they are either localized (confined to the prostate) or regional (nearby). The five-year survival rate for men diagnosed with prostate tumors discovered at these stages is 99 percent.
  • In the past 20 years, the five-year survival rate for all stages combined has increased from 67 percent to 99 percent.
  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, excluding skin cancer.

The prostate is a sex gland in men. It is about the size of a walnut, and surrounds the neck of the bladder and urethra - the tube that carries urine from the bladder. It is partly muscular and partly glandular, with ducts opening into the prostatic portion of the urethra. It is made up of three lobes: a center lobe with one lobe on each side. 

Prostate Cancer Treatment

There are usually no specific signs or symptoms of early prostate cancer. A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE) can provide the best chance of identifying prostate cancer in its earliest stages, but these tests can have drawbacks. Talk to your physician about whether prostate cancer screening is right for you.

When medication and other non-surgical treatments are either unavailable or cannot relieve symptoms, surgery is the accepted treatment for a broad range of conditions that affect the male reproductive organs and the organs of the urinary tract. At Methodist University Hospital, we offer a robotic prostatectomy as a form of prostate cancer treatment. It incorporates the latest advancements in robotic-assisted technology and allows a surgeon greater visualization, enhanced dexterity, precision, control and superior ergonomics.

Symptoms

The following are the most common symptoms of prostate cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • urinating often (especially at night)
  • difficulty urinating or holding back urine
  • inability to urinate
  • pain or burning when urinating
  • blood in the urine or semen
  • nagging pain in the back, hips, or pelvis
  • painful ejaculation

The symptoms of prostate cancer may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

As a man gets older, his prostate may grow bigger and obstruct the flow of urine, or interfere with sexual function. An enlarged prostate gland – a condition called benign prostate hyperplasia – may require treatment with medicine or surgery to relieve symptoms. This common benign prostate condition, which is not cancer, can cause many of the same symptoms as prostate cancer.

In general, all men are at risk for prostate cancer. However, there are specific risk factors that increase the likelihood that certain men will develop the disease, including the following:

  • Age is a risk factor for prostate cancer, especially men age 50 and older. More than 70 percent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.
  • Race - Prostate cancer is nearly 60 percent more common among African-American men than it is among Caucasian-American men. Japanese and Chinese men native to their country have the lowest rates of prostate cancer. Interestingly, when Chinese and Japanese men immigrate to the US, they have an increased risk and mortality rate from prostate cancer, when compared to their native populations. In Japan, the incidence of prostate cancer has increased as Western diets and lifestyles have been adopted.
  • Diet - Epidemiological data suggests that the diet consumed in Western industrialized countries may be one of the most important contributory factors for developing prostate cancer. Consider the following information regarding diet and its effect on the risk for prostate cancer:
    • Fat - Studies suggest that men who eat a high-fat diet may have a greater chance of developing prostate cancer.
    • Fiber - Dietary fiber intake may influence circulating levels of testosterone and estradiol, which, may decrease the progression of prostate cancer.
    • Soy protein - Besides lower fat intake, another major difference between Asian and American diets is the consumption of soy, averaging 35 g/day per capita. Soy contains isoflavone which, in several studies, have been found to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer.
    • Vitamin E and selenium - Vitamin E, an antioxidant, combined with selenium, has been shown to inhibit tumor growth in laboratory animals.
    • Carotenoids containing lycopenes have been shown to inhibit the growth of human prostate cancer cells in tissue cultures (cells grown in the laboratory). The primary source of lycopenes is processed tomatoes in tomato juice and tomato paste.
    • Herbal preparations - Combination herbal preparations should be used with caution as reported side effects have included venous thrombosis, breast tenderness, and loss of libido. Many herbal preparations have not been studied in men with prostate cancer.
    • Obesity not only contributes to diabetes and high cholesterol, but has also been associated with some common cancers, including hormone-dependent tumors such as prostate, breast, and ovarian cancer.
  • Environmental exposures - Some studies show an increased chance for prostate cancer in men who are farmers, or those exposed to the metal cadmium while making batteries, welding, or electroplating. Additional research is needed in this area to confirm whether this is a true association.
  • Having a vasectomy, BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), or STD (sexually transmitted disease) - Researchers have looked at whether men who have had a vasectomy, BPH, or those who have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease are at increased risk for prostate cancer. Some studies suggest a link, while others do not support these claims.
  • Family history - Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man's risk of developing this disease. The risk is even higher for men with several affected relatives, particularly if the relatives were young at the time of diagnosis. Geneticists (physicians and scientists who study inheritance and the causes of genetic disease) divide families into three groups, depending upon the number of men with prostate cancer and their ages of onset.

In addition to an annual physical examination that includes blood, urine, and possibly other laboratory tests, the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society suggest consulting your physician about these recommendations for the evaluation of the prostate gland. 

The diagnosis of cancer is confirmed only by a biopsy.


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