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Demystifying prostate cancer

November is about raising awareness on men’s health and one of the major highlights is prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate. The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland in males that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.

It is located below the bladder (the hollow organ where urine is stored) and in front of the rectum (the last part of the intestines).

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. Many prostate cancers grow slowly and are confined to the prostate gland, where they may not cause serious harm.

However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly

Types of prostate cancer

Almost all prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas. These cancers develop from the gland cells (the cells that make the prostate fluid that is added to the semen).

Other types of cancer that can start in the prostate include:

  • Small cell carcinomas
  • Neuroendocrine tumors (other than small cell carcinomas)
  • Transitional cell carcinomas
  • Sarcomas

These other types of prostate cancer are rare. If you are told you have prostate cancer, it is almost certain to be an adenocarcinoma.

Symptoms

In its early stages, prostate cancer often has no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can be like those of an enlarged prostate or BPH. Prostate cancer can also cause symptoms unrelated to BPH. If you have urinary problems, talk with your healthcare provider about them.

Symptoms of prostate cancer can be:

  • Dull pain in the lower pelvic area
  • Frequent urinating
  • Trouble urinating, pain, burning, or weak urine flow
  • Blood in the urine (Hematuria)
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Bone pain

Causes

No one knows why or how prostate cancer starts. Autopsy studies show one in three men over the age of 50 have some cancer cells in the prostate. Eight out of 10 “autopsy cancers” found are small, with tumours that are not harmful.

Even though there is no known reason for prostate cancer, there are many risks associated with the disease.

Risk factors

  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Diet

Treatment

Low-grade prostate cancer may not need treatment right away. For some, treatment may never be needed. Instead, doctors sometimes recommend active surveillance.

In active surveillance, regular follow-up blood tests, rectal exams and prostate biopsies may be performed to monitor progression of your cancer. If tests show your cancer is progressing, you may opt for a prostate cancer treatment such as surgery or radiation.

Active surveillance may be an option for cancer that isn’t Prostatectomy incisions. Surgery for prostate cancer involves removing the prostate gland (radical prostatectomy), some surrounding tissue and a few lymph nodes.

Surgery is an option for treating cancer that’s confined to the prostate. It’s sometimes used to treat advanced prostate cancer in combination with other treatments causing symptoms, is expected to grow very slowly and is confined to a small area of the prostate. Active surveillance may also be considered for someone who has another serious health condition or who is of an advanced age that makes cancer treatment more difficult. —online

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