Prostate cancer begins in the prostate, a chestnut shaped gland located in the base of a man’s bladder just in front of the rectum. The prostate forms part of the male reproductive and urinary system and surrounds the base or neck of the bladder. It has two lobes that surround the urethra. The urethra carries urine from the bladder, through the prostate and then out through the penis. The size of the prostate will vary from one man to another and will range from the size of a walnut to that of a small apple. The size of a man’s prostate usually increases with age. The prostate itself is covered in a layer of connective tissue called the prostatic capsule.
It is responsible for producing seminal fluid, the liquid that a man’s semen is carried in during orgasm. It also plays a part in controlling the flow of urine. The lobes that surround the urethra contain muscle fibres that contract to slow or stop the flow of urine through the urethra.
Prostate cancer will be found in almost 26,000 men this year. Twenty six thousand more men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer next year and another 26,000+ the year after that. In fact, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canadian men.
While there is no known single cause of prostate cancer, some indicators figure larger than others. What is known is the risk of a man developing prostate cancer increases significantly with age. Few men under the age of 50 have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Most prostate cancers are found in men around the age of 65 and higher. Another factor is whether any blood relatives have developed prostate cancer. Your chances of developing this disease increase markedly if family members have developed it.
In addition, men of African descent are 60% more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men while Asian men are least likely to develop it. The reasons for the disparity are not known.
Early Signs and Detection
Early detection of the disease is critical. This disease does not have many symptoms in its early stages. Symptoms become more serious and numerous as the cancer advances. Because other conditions can have similar symptoms, having any of the symptoms listed below does not necessarily mean you have cancer. What is important is having yourself checked if they develop.
The first sign may be a change in bladder habits:
- Do you find you need to urinate more frequently?
- Do you have to get out of bed to urinate once, twice or even three times a night?
- Do you find your need to urinate is sometimes intense
- Do you ever have difficulty in getting your urine flow started?
- Do you have trouble in stopping your urine flow?
- Do you find you sometimes cannot urinate at all?
- Is your urine flow weak or decreased?
- Have you experienced a stoppage in urine flow?
- Have you had the sensation that your bladder has not completely emptied after urination?
- Have you experienced pain or a burning sensation while urinating?
- Other signs may be blood in your urine or semen or pain during orgasm.
If you have experienced one or more of these symptoms, you should speak to your doctor and get checked.
Later Signs and Symptoms
Prostate cancer is typically a slow-growing cancer. Symptoms usually begin to appear after the tumour becomes large enough to affect the surrounding tissues and organs. As the cancer progresses, other late signs and symptoms may appear.
You may experience pain in your bones or joints, especially in your back, hips, thighs and neck. You might experience weight loss or feel a general fatigue. You may also feel weakness or numbness in your legs or feet. Another sign is a low red blood cell count or anemia. This will be detected by blood tests carried out by your doctor. And finally, you may experience a loss of bladder control or bowel control.
Early detection and screening are crucial since the cure rate is quite high when caught in the early stages. Once the cancer metastasizes (spreads) outside of the prostate, cure is very unlikely. It is best to get regular screenings before you notice any prostate cancer symptoms, since symptoms are rarely felt in the early stages of the disease.