What is cancer? Our bodies are made up of millions of cells that form our muscles, bones, organs and tissues. The cells generally follow the orders of the genes within and follow a regular cycle of growing, working, reproducing then dying. With cancer, the instructions go awry and the cells multiply -forming lumps or tumours
Formed tumours can be benign, which are non-cancerous and tend to stay in one place in the body. Or, the tumours can be malignant, which means they are cancerous. The cancer will be named based on the part of the body where the cancer begins.
What is Prostate Cancer? For prostate cancer, the tumours form on the prostate gland. This walnut sized gland is part of the male reproductive system, producing fluids that form part of the semen. The prostate is located in from of the rectum, just below the bladder. The urethra, a tube that carries semen and urine through the penis, is surrounded by the prostate. The prostate can help control urine flow.
The size of the prostate will increase as a man ages, and the size of the prostate can vary from man to man. An enlarged prostate can restrict the flow of urine. Tumours in the prostate can result in symptoms such as painful urination, a strong urge to urinate, a need to urinate more often, or decreased urine stream. Other factors or health problems can also cause these symptoms, so it is best to get tested to determine the cause.
How is it diagnosed? The 2 main tests for prostate cancer are the and the digital rectal examination and the prostate-specific antigen test. For the rectal exam, your doctor will insert a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for any lumps, hardness or change in size in the prostate. Most prostate cancers form in the part of the prostate that is closest to the rectum. If the doctor feels it necessary, he/she will order a PSA test, which is a blood test that measures a prostate-specific antigen. Higher levels of PSA may indicate a problem with the prostate, but does not necessarily mean it is cancer. Further testing will be done. The only way to be sure tumours are cancerous is to conduct a biopsy.
Why is screening so important? Men over the age of 50 should get regular screenings for prostate cancer as the likelihood of getting prostate cancer increases with age. Men with a history of prostate cancer in their immediate family (father, brother, son) should get screened even earlier. Early detection is key, since there are many effective treatments when prostate cancer is in the early stages.
One danger is with malignant tumours metastasizing (spreading) into areas outside of the prostate. The cancer becomes very difficult to treat and almost impossible to cure once this happens. If doctors determine that the tumours are cancerous, they will want to assign a stage, from T-1 to T-4, as a way to measure and best determine treatment. Prostate cancer that is caught in an early stage (T-1) with no metastases have a very high rate of cure, and there are several prostate cancer treatment options available including surgery, radiation, and newer treatments using HIFU- High Intensity Focused Ultrasound.
If you are diagnosed and need more information about prostate cancer survival, do not put off your appointment to speak to your doctor, since some cancers are very aggressive. Do your research into the best treatment methods, take into account your age, health and options, and discuss them with your urologist.