Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate gland in males. The prostate gland is located beneath the bladder and in front of the rectum. The prostate gland surrounds the urethra and secretes most of the liquid portion of semen. The prostate gland is made up of three lobes that is covered with a capsule. The testicles produce sperm but it also produces testosterone, an male sex hormone that controls the prostates growth. The prostate gland is examined during the digital rectal exam portion of the prostate screening.
Prostatic carcinoma is rare in men under the age of 50, although, it is the second most common cancer in males over age 50 years. Risk factors for prostate cancer is men over 50 years in age, a family history of cancer, a diet high in animal fat, and is more common in African American males. There are no symptoms in the early stages of prostate cancer. But in the later stages some of the symptoms may be obstruction of the bladder and ureters, blood in the urine, and pus in the urine.
In the prevention of prostate cancer, yearly prostatic screenings is recommended in men over age 50. Men in the high risk groups should have yearly screenings starting at age 40 years to determine the baseline PSA level. The prostatic screenings should consist of the digital rectal exam and the PSA blood test. The PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test tests for the level of the antigen in your blood. The PSA is naturally made by the prostate gland and is present in the blood stream. When prostate cancer begins to grow, the level of PSA in the blood also grows. So a high level of PSA or a noticeable increase in the level from exam to exam is an indicator of prostate cancer. Levels below 4 ng/ml are normal, 4-10 ng/ml are in the borderline category, and levels above 10 ng/ml is considered high. But also know that older men have higher levels of PSA, so it is important to know what your base PSA level is.
You should also look at your diet in prevention of prostate cancer. It should consist of limited amount of animal fat and more foods from plant sources, increasing servings of fruits and vegetables, and eating foods with a high lycopene content such as tomatoes, watermelon and grapefruit. Lycopene is an antioxidant that helps your body prevent DNA damage and prostate cancer. Vitamin supplements such as Vitamin E and Selenium can also help in prevention of prostate cancer.
When prostate cancer is suspected, a biopsy is performed. The tissue sample is taken with the use of a transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) probe. When cancer cells are detected from the biopsy, a grade is given to the cells, which describes how far the cancerous cells has changed from normal cells. Higher the grade, further along the cancer cells has changed. Next, the cancer is given a stage: stages I-II localized, stage III regional, and stage IV metastatic. Localized means that the cancer is only found in the prostate gland, regional means that the cancer has spread through the prostate capsule or into nearby muscles and organs, and metastatic means that the cancer has spread into the pelvic lymph nodes or more distant parts of the body.
Once the cancer has been diagnosed, different treatment options are available. If the cancer is in the very early stages, nothing may be done except to monitor the cancer since the cancer may advance slowly. Other options are to have surgery, external beam radiation therapy, or internal radiation therapy on the prostate gland. If the cancer is in the later stages, cryosurgery, chemotherapy, or hormonal therapy may be the best option. In cryosurgery the prostate cancer cells are killed by the use of liquid nitrogen. Hormonal therapy attacks the cancer by shutting down the supply of male hormones that encourages cancer growth, which is either done through drugs or by removing the testicles.
No matter the grade or stage of your prostate cancer, a second opinion is always best. Know all of your treatment options before committing to one and ask questions.