Prostate Cancer

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What is it?

Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that has its origins in the prostate, which is a gland that is an important part of the male reproductive system. Usually cancers of the prostate are slow to develop, but there are instances when such cancers can develop rapidly, with cancerous cells spreading quickly to other areas of the body like lymph nodes or other organs. This is called metastasize. Cancer of the prostate can be extremely painful especially during urination and sexual intercourse.

Causes

Causes of prostate cancer vary, with the usual risk factors being lifestyle/diet, genes, and sexual issues. Regarding lifestyle and diet, it has been shown that men with high blood pressure and little daily exercise are at risk for the disease.

Also, a lack of vitamin D in the blood, an overabundance of taking multivitamins, as well as taking regular folic acid supplements have all been linked to acquiring the disease. Regarding genetics, an individual’s chance of getting prostate cancer is greatly increased if he has a close relative (brother or father) who has the cancer. Also, in the U.S., black men are more at risk for the cancer than white or Hispanic men. Finally, although there is no one identifiable gene linked to prostate cancer, there does exist many mutations of genes that have been implicated. In terms of sexual issues, factors such as many sexual partners over time, as well as an early headstart to sexual activity have both been linked to increased risk of prostate cancer, with the causal link being a possibility of STDs. Other causes worthy of mention are having a vasectomy, high levels of testosterone, prostate infection, and exposure to the chemical Agent Orange.

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Symptoms

Unlike other diseases such as breast cancer where early warning signs are evident (lumps on the breast), prostate cancer displays no such early signs. Thus, once a tumor is malignant and spreads to other areas of the body, many symptoms will be present. WebMD’s symptom classification includes signs such as the need to urinate a lot throughout the night, the inability to be standing up while urinating, and having a hard time beginning or ceasing urination. Also as a sign is a sensation of burning during urination and ejaculation, and the presence of blood in semen and urine. As the cancer becomes more advanced, other more serious symptoms may develop such as a stiff and painful pelvis, pain and stiffness in the lower back and thighs, unexplained weight loss with accompanying fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and even a paralysis of the limbs.

Diagnosis

To make a sure diagnosis of prostate cancer, the only true way is to have a biopsy, a procedure which cuts away a tiny amount of the prostate to be later examined further and in more detail. However, there do exist pre-biopsy methods in order to screen for possible prostate cancer. For example, urine tests can be performed to detect for cancerous proteins. Also, a digital rectal examination can be performed to see if any abnormalities are apparent with the prostate. Cystoscopy can be used, too, which is when a fiber-optic camera is used to see inside the bladder and urinary tract. Ultrasounds and MRIs are also popular methods for detecting prostate abnormalities. Finally, samples of prostate tissue can be “stained” to determine if there are any marks on a tumor in order to see if cells in the tumor have become cancerous.

Treatment

Treatment options for prostate cancer vary depending mainly on one’s age, current medical problems, and how advanced the cancer already is. In terms of treatment options, WebMD states that some of the major forms of treatment include, for example, radiation therapy, during which radiation from X-rays are used to destroy cancer cells. Newer forms of radiation therapy are being used that specifically target the cancerous area while sparing healthy tissue from radiation damage. Forms of surgery are also used. For instance, a prostatectomy is when the entire prostate is removed, along with any surrounding cancer. Also,Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is performed in order to prevent further bladder issues and pain associated with blockage from a prostate tumor. This surgery thus takes out a section of the tumor that is blocking the urethra. Hormone therapy can also be used. Cancer of the prostate requires testosterone in order for the cancer to continue to live and grow, thus taking away the testosterone works to inhibit further cancer cell growth. This method is achieved through the use of drugs.