Prostate cancer often goes undetected until it’s too late to save the patient, so it’s more dangerous than many people realize. However, early detection can save your life, and there are some clear warning signs that are easy to spot if you know what to look for in your own body. Here’s everything you need to know about prostate cancer, including how to recognize the symptoms and some great tips on how to combat it if you have it.
Prostate cancer: Important facts you should consider
It’s estimated that more than 200,000 men in America will be diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. In fact, it’s one of the most common forms of non-skin cancers in both men and women, with nearly 30,000 deaths attributed to it annually. However, it’s also highly treatable if detected early.
For example, if prostate cancer is detected and treated in its earliest stages, it’s often curable. But because symptoms may not appear until later stages of disease, many men aren’t diagnosed until prostate cancer has spread to other parts of their bodies, making it much more difficult to treat.
It’s also important to note that it’s not too late to have a discussion with your doctor about your risk for prostate cancer. Understanding your risk is just one piece of the puzzle, and diagnosing and treating prostate cancer early can drastically increase your chances of survival.
So if you do have any questions or concerns about prostate cancer, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
You should also understand that while prostate cancer is most common in men older than 65, it’s important to remember that it can happen at any age. In fact, 1 in 7 prostate cancers are diagnosed in men younger than 65.
According to Cancer.gov, a branch of the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer is very treatable when it’s diagnosed and treated early. So if you’re concerned about your risk for prostate cancer, talk to your doctor today to learn more about risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.
It could save your life!
What causes prostate cancer:
It’s not totally clear what causes prostate cancer, but research shows that it’s linked to genetics. Some research suggests that testosterone has a role in causing prostate cancers.
However, scientists don’t know if having high levels of testosterone makes you more likely to develop prostate cancer or if men with certain types of tumors have high levels of testosterone. It’s also unclear why some men with low levels of testosterone get prostate cancer while others don’t.
Even though researchers aren’t sure what causes prostate cancer, they have found that there are some risk factors that make it more likely.
Men who have a close relative (father, brother or son) with prostate cancer are at a higher risk of developing it themselves. Exposure to radiation has also been linked to increased risks of developing prostate cancer later in life.
Risk factors for prostate cancer:
The risk factors for prostate cancer are similar to those of other cancers. They include age and family history. African-American men have a greater risk than Caucasian men, and prostate cancer is more common in older men. Family history also plays a role; if your father or brother has had prostate cancer, you may be at an increased risk of developing it yourself.
In addition to these risk factors, it is also believed that exposure to carcinogens such as pesticides may contribute to an increased risk. Smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet are also correlated with prostate cancer.
A large number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not have any known risk factors.
Researchers are studying whether other factors may play a role in developing prostate cancer, such as diet and environmental exposure to toxins. Despite its high prevalence, however, prostate cancer is often a slow-growing disease that can be successfully treated if detected early.
To lower your risk of developing prostate cancer, there are steps you can take to reduce exposure to carcinogens and protect yourself from unhealthy lifestyles. These include eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking or other unhealthy habits.
Early detection through regular PSA tests and doctor visits can help ensure that cancers are caught before they spread or become too advanced to treat successfully.
How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
There are several methods that doctors use when testing for prostate cancer.
If a blood test, biopsy or physical exam indicates that you may have prostate cancer, your doctor will most likely recommend further testing to confirm that diagnosis.
There are three main types of diagnostic tests for prostate cancer:
- Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)
- Ultrasound; and
As with all tests, these procedures carry some risks and side effects; talk to your doctor about any concerns you have prior to proceeding.
Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) — It is a simple test in which your doctor inserts a gloved finger into your rectum to feel for lumps or other abnormalities. It can help diagnose BPH and prostatitis, but not prostate cancer.
Ultrasound — It uses sound waves to create images of your body’s internal structures, including your abdomen and pelvis. It’s painless and can detect abnormalities in tissues surrounding your prostate gland.
Biopsy — If your doctor detects a lump during DRE or ultrasound, he may recommend that you undergo a biopsy. A biopsy involves removing a small amount of tissue to be tested for signs of cancer. Biopsies are typically done in a clinic or surgery center, and you’ll probably be given local anesthesia to numb your rectum.
Biopsies can be done in two ways: transrectal or trans-perineal. During a transrectal biopsy, your doctor inserts a thin tube with a tiny sampling device into your rectum and prostate gland to remove samples of tissue.
Trans-perineal biopsies involve inserting a needle through your perineum (the area between your scrotum and anus) to remove tissue samples. Trans-perineal biopsies are often used if transrectal biopsies were inconclusive or were not possible because of previous surgery, scarring or prostate abnormalities.
Regardless of which biopsy method is used, some men experience mild discomfort. You may also have some bleeding after your procedure or feel pressure or pain in your abdomen, pelvis or rectum for a few days afterward.
If you’re scheduled for a transrectal biopsy, you may need to avoid driving home alone after your procedure and plan to stay near a bathroom. Speak with your doctor about any concerns you have regarding side effects before proceeding with any tests.
Warning signs to look out for:
As men age, they may notice changes in their urinary and bowel habits. While these changes are often benign, it’s important to rule out prostate cancer, which is one of America’s most frequently diagnosed cancers in men.
A little-known fact about prostate cancer is that approximately 40 percent of all cases are not diagnosed until symptoms occur — the majority of patients present with metastatic disease.
You can help reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. You should also see your doctor for routine screenings.
According to an analysis of data from men participating in a national health study, men age 50 and older who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer were more likely to die from other causes during follow-up periods than those without a history of prostate cancer diagnosis.
Men with prostate cancer who undergo treatment tend to live longer than those who are diagnosed but don’t receive treatment. As in many cancers, early detection and effective treatment are crucial for improving survival rates.
If you notice any of these symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible to determine whether prostate cancer may be affecting your health. Early detection and treatment are essential for improving survival rates in patients with prostate cancer.
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your doctor will likely recommend a treatment plan based on factors such as your age and overall health. Your physician may also recommend additional screenings to monitor your progress and catch any new tumors.
Several treatment options are available for patients with early-stage prostate cancer. But which one is right for you? Your doctor will make a recommendation based on your specific diagnosis, medical history, and preferences.
Medical treatment options for prostate cancer:
Several different types of therapy are available for men with prostate cancer. Doctors may recommend surgery, radiation, hormone therapy or chemotherapy depending on many factors such as age and whether or not there are signs that prostate cancer has spread to other parts of your body.
One of these options may be more appropriate than another for you, so it’s important to discuss all of your treatment options with your doctor.
Surgery is a procedure in which a doctor removes part or all of your prostate. Surgery may be recommended if your doctor detects signs that prostate cancer has spread beyond your prostate gland. Your urologist might also recommend surgery if he or she feels there’s a high risk that prostate cancer will return.
It is a treatment that delivers high-energy rays directly to prostate tumors. It may be used in combination with hormone therapy, which blocks your body’s production of testosterone. Radiation and hormone therapy may be recommended if your doctor thinks there’s a good chance prostate cancer will return after surgery or other treatments.
Your doctor might also recommend radiation and hormone therapy if you choose not to have surgery or cannot have surgery because of other health problems.
Hormone therapy, which is also called androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), may be an option if you are a man with prostate cancer that has spread beyond your prostate gland. This treatment can slow or stop your body’s production of testosterone, which helps limit tumor growth.
You may take medications by mouth daily or have them injected into your muscle once every three to four weeks.
Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be used if your doctor thinks that prostate cancer may return after hormone therapy. Common chemotherapy drugs include docetaxel (Taxotere), mitoxantrone (Novantrone) and gemcitabine (Gemzar).
It is a form of radiation therapy that delivers high-energy particles directly to your prostate tumor. This type of treatment may be an option if you have already had hormone therapy and chemotherapy, or your doctor can’t treat your prostate cancer with traditional radiation due to its location.
Watchful waiting may be an option if you have early-stage prostate cancer that has not spread to other parts of your body. Your doctor might recommend watchful waiting if he or she doesn’t think your prostate cancer is likely to grow or cause symptoms in your lifetime.
This type of therapy involves regular monitoring, such as a PSA test, without any treatment for up to 10 years.
Cryosurgery is a treatment that freezes and destroys prostate cancer cells. A doctor may recommend cryosurgery if your tumor is close to your rectum or bladder.
In some cases, a doctor may also remove lymph nodes during cryosurgery to look for signs of cancer. This treatment can be used as a stand-alone therapy or in combination with hormone therapy, radiation therapy or surgery.
Surgery may be an option if you have prostate cancer that has not spread to other parts of your body. During surgery, a doctor removes your prostate and part of your bladder or nearby lymph nodes.
You may need additional treatments, such as hormone therapy, radiation therapy or chemotherapy after surgery. Your doctor might recommend robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy (RALP) if you have early-stage prostate cancer and a good chance of remaining disease-free after treatment.
Managing PSA levels:
If your PSA (Prostate-specific antigen) is rising, your doctor may recommend prostate needle biopsy to determine if you have cancer. A needle biopsy removes small pieces of prostate tissue for analysis by a pathologist. In more than 90 percent of cases, needle biopsies show no signs of cancer and are used only to determine whether more invasive treatment is needed.
A prostate biopsy is a surgical procedure that removes samples of prostate tissue to determine if cancer is present. During a biopsy, your doctor inserts a needle into your prostate and removes several tissue samples for examination by a pathologist.
A small incision may be made to remove additional tissue through open surgery. If you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer, you may also undergo radiation therapy, cryosurgery or high-intensity focused ultrasound to destroy remaining tumor cells.
For many men, prostate biopsy is performed to determine if a suspicious PSA reading warrants further investigation. A small amount of tissue is removed through needle biopsy or surgery, and examined by a pathologist. If your doctor recommends a biopsy, he or she will likely discuss your risks and benefits with you before proceeding.
After a prostate biopsy, you may experience pain, bleeding or an uncomfortable pressure in your rectum for a few days. Your doctor will recommend steps to manage these side effects and may prescribe medications to reduce your pain and inflammation.
Make sure to let your doctor know if you develop fever, chills or back pain that doesn’t go away within a few days of a biopsy. If symptoms worsen or continue after four weeks, call your doctor.
Prostate biopsy is usually a safe procedure, but complications can occur. Bleeding from your rectum and infection are rare, but some men experience pain or discomfort after biopsy. If you have bleeding problems or clotting disorders, speak with your doctor before undergoing prostate biopsy.
If you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. Prostate cancer is highly treatable and most men don’t die from it. Treatments for prostate cancer include radiation therapy, cryosurgery or high-intensity focused ultrasound.
Depending on your situation, surgery to remove your prostate may also be an option. While there’s no cure for prostate cancer, these treatments can help relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life in some cases.
Your doctor will help you determine which treatment is best for you. Factors that may play a role in your decision include your age, overall health and life expectancy.
If you’re older than 70 or have other significant health problems, radiation therapy and surgery may not be ideal options for treating prostate cancer. These treatments can also cause sexual side effects such as erectile dysfunction and incontinence, which make them less appealing to some men.
After treatment, your doctor will continue to monitor your PSA levels. If your PSA level drops, it could indicate that you no longer have cancer. This may not be true in every case, however, so make sure to inform your doctor if you experience recurrence of prostate cancer symptoms after treatment.
Treatments that complement conventional treatments:
There are treatments that go hand-in-hand with conventional treatment such as diet and exercise, stress management, mind and body medicine, acupuncture, guided imagery and hypnosis.
Choose complementary treatments carefully. Learn about their benefits, cost and side effects so you can make informed decisions about what is right for you. Your prostate health care team can offer guidance on which to consider.
There are treatments that complement conventional treatment and can be used together with other therapies. Some of these may reduce certain side effects of therapy while others help manage pain and increase quality of life.
Diet, exercise, stress management techniques, mind and body medicine (such as acupuncture), guided imagery and hypnosis are all complementary treatments that have been shown to have a positive effect on prostate cancer patients.
Managing pain and other symptoms:
Prostate cancer can cause quite a bit of pain. There are several ways to manage it, however, including different types of surgery and radiation therapy as well as drugs that help alleviate symptoms and make it easier to urinate.
Another symptom associated with prostate cancer is difficulty urinating. This happens because prostate tumors can narrow or block tubes that lead from your bladder to your penis. These symptoms are also managed using different therapies, such as drugs, surgery and radiation therapy.
Even though prostate cancer can cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as pain and difficulty urinating, many men who have it report few bothersome symptoms at first. Still, regular checkups are important. Men age 50 and older should talk to their doctors about getting screened for prostate cancer during an annual checkup or routine physical exam.
If you do experience any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Although prostate cancer can be serious, it is often treatable if caught early enough. Your doctor may request a blood test or a physical exam to help determine whether you have prostate cancer.
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your doctor will determine a treatment plan based on several factors, including your age and overall health. For example, radiation therapy isn’t an option for men who have a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In these cases, surgery or other treatments may be recommended instead.
Some men also choose to undergo hormone therapy after they’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Hormone therapy can slow or stop growth of prostate tumors and help relieve symptoms, such as pain and difficulty urinating.
During hormone therapy, your doctor will recommend a specific course of treatment based on your age, health status and type of tumor. For example, certain hormone therapies are most effective when used alongside radiation treatment for early-stage prostate cancer.
Managing your life after prostate surgery:
What you can expect after prostate surgery?
There are different ways of treating prostate cancer, and one of them is surgery. Surgery consists of removing all or part of a man’s prostate gland. It is carried out to remove any cancerous cells in your body and relieves symptoms caused by an enlarged prostate. This can improve your quality of life and make it easier for you to move around.
You’ll also need to pay close attention to your body and how it reacts after surgery. You may be able to go home two days after surgery, but you’ll still need someone to look after you at home for a few days.
Recovery time will vary depending on what type of prostate surgery you have and whether other treatment was combined with your surgery. If there are any problems or complications, they should show up within a few weeks of your surgery and can be dealt with by your doctors.
After prostate surgery, it’s normal to have some trouble with your bladder and bowel movements. Most men regain bowel control in a few weeks but can take longer to learn how to empty their bladder. It can take two years or more for you to feel like yourself again. This can be frustrating, so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
After surgery, your doctor will probably recommend that you follow an exercise plan to keep your body strong and help with recovery. Ask your doctor for advice about what exercises are best for you.
Prostate surgery isn’t always successful. Sometimes, after treatment, prostate cancer can still be found in your body.
If you have surgery and it doesn’t improve your symptoms or a PSA test shows that there is still some cancer in your body, you may need to go through another round of treatment. Your doctor will discuss all options with you so that you can make an informed decision about how to move forward.
After learning more about prostate cancer, you may be wondering what you can do to reduce your risk. While some instances of prostate cancer go undetected and harmless, it’s possible for it to spread to other parts of your body and cause even more serious damage. If you notice any symptoms like frequent or urgent urination, blood in your urine or semen, pain when urinating or ejaculating, difficulty maintaining an erection or back pain (more common in advanced stages), see your doctor as soon as possible.
Doctors can catch prostate cancer in its early stages before it spreads with routine blood tests, physical exams and biopsies. Remember that early detection is key — if you’re concerned about prostate cancer, don’t wait to take action. Speak to your doctor as soon as possible to determine if you have symptoms of prostate cancer or if you’re due for a standard screening.
For men with low-risk prostate cancer, treatment is usually not necessary. However, for men with high-risk prostate cancer, surgery or radiation therapy may be recommended to help control spread of tumor cells and reduce risk of death. Treatment options will depend on how far along your cancer is as well as your overall health and preferences.