It's estimated that one out of every ten American men will develop prostate cancer before the age of 85. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age and rarely occurs in men younger than 40.
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that lies at the base of the penis, just below the bladder. It is part of the male reproductive system, supplying fluid for the sperm during ejaculation. Most tumors occur on the part of the gland that can be felt by a doctor when examined through the rectum.
Prostate cancer risk factors
Though the causes of prostate cancer remain unknown, we do know that the risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age and doubles in men with a family history of the disease. There is no convincing evidence to date that ties diet and/or nutrition to prostate cancer.
Signs and symptoms
Few men experience symptoms in the early stages of prostate cancer. When symptoms do develop, they vary according to the size and location of the tumor and are often the same as those for benign prostate conditions, which are much more common. Still, it's wise to have any symptoms or discomfort checked by your doctor, who will conduct specific tests to determine whether your condition is cancerous or benign. Some symptoms of prostate problems are:
- Inability to urinate
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- Difficulty in starting or stopping urination
- Need to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Blood in the urine
- Pain or burning during urination
- Constant pain of the lower back, pelvis, or upper thighs
As with all cancers, early detection is very important. Every man over the age of 40 should have a digital rectal examination as part of his regular annual physical checkup, since almost all prostate cancers begin in the part of the prostate gland that can be palpated by rectal examination. It's also recommended that men 50 and older, or men 40 and older with a family history of prostate cancer, have an annual prostate-specific antigen blood test (PSA).
If either digital rectal examination or the prostate-specific blood test is abnormal, your doctor may recommend a biopsy — the removal of a small tissue sample for examination under a microscope. A biopsy is the only way to determine conclusively if a growth is cancerous.
Surgery if detected early, prostate cancer can be cured by surgery, which may help prevent the spread of the cancer to other organs.
Radiation Therapy uses high-energy rays to kill prostate cancer cells. Because the rays cannot be directed perfectly, they may damage both cancer cells and healthy cells nearby. If the dose of radiation is small and spread over time, however, the healthy cells are able to recover and survive, and the cancer cells eventually die. Radiation therapy usually is used if prostate cancer has not spread to other areas of the body. Like surgery, this therapy works best when the cancer is located in a small area. In early stages of prostate cancer, radiation therapy can cure the disease.
Hormone Therapy involves two main types: medication given by injection, or the surgical removal of the testicles. The purpose of both is to help stop the production of testosterone, which will then help stop the spread of cancer and aid in shrinking the tumor.