Cancer has been an important part of human history, dating as far back as 1500 B.C. in Ancient Egypt. As most people would expect, the first cases of cancer were believed to be inflicted by the Gods themselves by such ancient civilizations, among other theories with no true scientific approach. Unfortunately for the ill, it was not until the twentieth century that actual headway was established in cancer research.
Nowadays, we know that our body comprises trillions of cells, which divide quickly through our childhood, allowing us to grow; coming to divide only in case of injury or replacement of old cells when we reach adulthood. Cells can also divide uncontrollably, and all types of cancer take place at the different parts of the body where this occurs. A cell with damaged DNA, instead of repairing itself or dying as usual, continues dividing hectically, thus spreading its damaged DNA throughout all of the new cells – cancer cells.
2. The Prostate
The prostate is a gland exclusive to males and begins to grow while the individual is still in the womb, growing until adulthood. From there on, it remains the same size or grows slowly, depending only on the presence of male hormones, called androgens, the main of which is the famous testosterone, made in the testicles; it is converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), that indicates when the prostate should grow.
The prostate exists to produce some of the seminal fluid that sustains sperm cells, while the rest is produced by seminal vesicles located behind it. The urethra passes through the center of the prostate, a part that may keep growing as men get older and can lead to a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. This condition leads to problems passing urine through the prostate, for it grows pressing on the urethra. BPH is not cancer, and fortunately does not lead to cancer, taking into account it has become more and more common.
3. Prostate Cancer
There are some types of cancer that may develop from cells found in the prostate, but most of the time it develops from the gland cells, and is called adenocarcinoma. Considering it is found in the vast majority of prostate cancer findings, this work discusses only this particular type of prostate cancer.
Many older men, and even some younger men die of causes other than prostate cancer, and are later found to have had the condition for many years, showing that it does not always indicate its presence or debilitates the individual in any way.
Prostate cancer may start as a pre-cancerous condition, although this is not mandatory among doctors. Some of these conditions are briefly described below:
a. Prostatic Intraepithelial Neoplasia (PIN)
Almost 50% of all men have PIN by the age of 50, but some men begin to show this condition as young adults, although it does not essentially lead to prostate cancer. Men with this condition portray changes in how their gland cells appear under the microscope. The difference to cancer cells is that here they do not seem to be invading other sections of the prostate. There are two kinds of PIN, Low-Grade and High-Grade, based on how abnormal the cells appear. High-grade PIN presents as a more abnormal type than low-grade PIN. There is not any evidence of a connection between Low-Grade PIN and prostate cancer; High-Grade PIN, on the other hand, has a 20 to 30% chance of being linked to cancer in another section of the patient’s prostate.
b. Proliferative Inflammatory Atrophy (PIA)
When performing a prostate biopsy, another condition that may be discovered is PIA. It is believed to sometimes be directly connected to High-Grade PIN or even cancer. In this condition, the gland cells appear smaller than usual, as well as inflammatory processes are present.
4. Treatment Options
Prostate Cancer grows very slowly in most cases, but once it begins to spread outside of the prostate, it can be deadly, since there is no cure. However, there is a possibility for it to be controlled so the individual can have around five or more years to live. In its early stages, it can be treated with great chances of total removal.
The doctor is the one to decide which treatment is right for each individual case. Men who find themselves having to undergo treatment should even consider a second opinion before making a decision. Many things have to be deliberated before choosing; for example, prostate cancer that can be found only within the prostate generally needs only mild surgery or radiation to be completely cured. However, the outcome of such invasive techniques can sometimes outweigh their benefits, especially in the initial stages of prostate cancer; in such cases, occasionally treatment is to do nothing and wait until it becomes threatening. On the other hand, treatment for late stages of prostate cancer may include all of the above or a blend of hormone therapy, radiation and rarely chemotherapy, often sadly with significantly low success rates.
The best chance for a cure seems to continue to be early detection, so that the right choices with the least harmful side effects can be made; at least until significant progress can be achieved. Thankfully, many scientists are working day and night researching improved techniques to enhance therapy success of advanced cancer cases.
Improvements in therapy will come from improvement of understanding of why cancer cells grow and how to halt tumor growth and cancer spread.