The prostate is a chestnut shaped gland located between the rectum and the throat of the bladder. It straddles the urethra with two lobes that reach around both sides of it. Muscle tissue in the lobes allows you to regulate the flow of urine and to stop it if necessary. The gland produces seminal fluid, the viscous fluid that carries semen during orgasm.
Experts estimate that 26,000 Canadian men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and a further 250,000 are diagnosed in the U.S. African American men are more likely to be infected than any other ethnic group, Asian men the least. The reasons for this are unclear. However, regardless of your ethnic background, all men over the age of 50 are at risk of contracting the disease.
If you’re a man over 50 or if you develop any of the following symptoms, see you doctor and get tested. The symptoms may be a sign of prostate cancer, or a different medical issue:
- Difficulty in starting, stopping or maintaining urine flow
- The sensation that your bladder is not completely empty after urination
- Blood in urine or semen
- Pain during orgasm
- Pain or a burning sensation while urinating
- A frequent need to urinate
It is important to note that early stages of prostate cancer usually do not have any symptoms at all, which makes screening and testing imperative.
Dealing With a Prostate Cancer Diagnosis
If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you need to talk to your doctor about your options. Research into cancer treatments in the last decades have given medical practitioners new treatments and therapies that, depending on how far your cancer has developed, can completely cure prostate cancer.
When prostate cancer is in its early stages, it is confined only to the prostate gland. When the cancer is at this stage, it provides you with the best chance of defeating it completely. That is why it cannot be overstated; get checked for prostate cancer regularly after the age of 50. Ask your doctor if you are at increased risk and find out how often you should be checked.
What Are My Treatment Options?
Traditional treatments like surgery and radiotherapy are typically reserved for advanced prostate cancer, that is cancer that has spread into the tissue surrounding the prostate gland.
Surgery requires a hospital stay and general anesthetic to put you under. Your prostate is completely removed along with any other cancerous tissue found. Typical side effects are impotence and urinary incontinence. Recovery takes weeks and surgery itself poses risks.
Radiotherapy is carried out over the space of approximately 5 weeks and requires you to attend a clinic for 5 consecutive days each week. A radioactive source is focused on your pelvic area and the cancer cells are burned off. Typical side effects are impotence and holes burned through the rectal walls adjacent to the prostate gland.
HIFU is short for High Intensity Focused Ultrasound. This treatment uses focused sound waves to heat and destroy cancer cells using a probe inserted into the rectum until it is adjacent to the prostate. This procedure is non-invasive and is effective at eradicating cancer cells throughout the prostate. Where all the cancer cells have not been destroyed, it can be repeated. It can also be used as a “mopping up” procedure to eradicate cancer cells not caught by surgery or other means.
Side effects have been proven to be minimal with a 93% cure rate when the cancer is caught in its early stages. There is also little down time as the procedure lasts 2-3 hours and is performed in an out-patient basis. It is only performed on men with organ confined prostate cancer.