Contributed by: Abshar Faheem
The prostrate is a tiny walnut-shaped gland in the pelvis of men, located under the bladder and in front of the rectum. The size of the prostate in men changes with their age. In younger, it measures the size of a walnut but it may be much larger in older men. Prostrate is controlled by the hormone called testosterone and produces seminal fluid known as semen ( a material containing sperms that exclude through the urethra during discharge). Prostrate performs various crucial functions in male, including:
- Assistance in the production of semen by making an alkaline fluid that combines with sperm during discharge and builds semen. This alkaline fluid shields sperm once it arrives at the woman’s vagina.
- Production of prostate-specific antigen that allows the sperm to attach with women cervix
- Pumping of sperm during the intercourse so that sperm can easily go to the uterus to find the egg
- Filtration of toxic substances in the sperms so that sperm can perform its job
- Creation and maintenance of erections during the sex
- Protection against urinary tract infections
- Control of urine flow in men
- Production of male hormones such as dihydrotestosterone
Cancer cells can start to grow uncontrollably anywhere in the body but when it begins in the prostate gland, it becomes prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is a type of cancer, common in men, mostly affects middle-aged or older. The growths of prostate tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign tumor growths such as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH do not enter into the surrounding tissues. BPH rarely threatens life, and it does not expand to other parts of the body.
BPH can be removed but it can come back again gradually. On the other hand, malignant tumor growth in the prostate gland leads to prostate cancer that can be threatening to life. It can be expanded to surrounding organs and tissues such as the rectum or bladder. It can metastasize to other parts of the body through blood vessels or lymph nodes. The prostate tumor can often be removed but it can be grown and come back again. Once cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, they may be associated with other tissues to develop new tumors and can cause damage wherever they go.
In the initial stages, prostate cancer often does not develop any symptoms. The developing tumor does not cause any pain in the early stages and the disease is silent for many years. But if men go for screening (A test that measures the level of PSA in the blood, higher PSA indicates the presence of prostate cancer), it can identify the changes that symbolize prostate cancer. If symptoms occur, they may be caused by BPH, or sometimes, prostate cancer may show symptoms that are not related to BPH. The symptoms of prostate cancer may include:
- Dull pain in the lower pelvic area
- The frequent urge in urination especially at the night
- Trouble in urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Painful or burning sensation during ejaculation
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight
- bone fracture or bone pain particularly in hips, thighs, or shoulders
- Pain or discomfort when sitting if the prostate is enlarged
- changes in the bowel habits
- Back pain
- Edema or inflammation in the legs or feet
- Difficulty in getting or maintaining an erection
Causes of prostate cancer
Doctors and researchers are still trying to figure out the actual cause behind prostate cancer. Prostate cancer may develop when there are some distinct changes occurring in glandular cells. Cancerous or precancerous cells in the prostate gland are termed prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia. In the initial stages, the changes are gradual and cells may not be cancerous. However, the cells may be cancerous as time passes and they can either be high or low in degree. High degree cells are more prone to develop and expand other parts of the body, on the other hand, low degree cells are not expected to grow and do not create any harm. Doctors do not know any specific cause of prostate cancer but some risk factors may contribute to its occurrence. The risk factors include:
- Race or ethnicity
- Family history
- Genetic factors
Other factors may play a role in prostate cancer but scientists are still finding out the evidence to confirm their contribution to prostate cancer. The other factors include:
- Inflammation of the prostate
- Sexually transmitted diseases
There is no single treatment for prostate cancer that can suit every man. There are lots of treatment options available but your doctor will decide the best one for you after examining various factors such as the size of your tumor, how far it has expanded, the stage of your cancer, how fast the tumor is prone to grow, your age, how healthy and fit you are or your personal references.
Your doctor may wait for some time before the treatment to watch some changes in your tumor whether the tumor will grow or spread to other parts of the body. In this surveillance, your doctor may check how the disease makes you feel. Sometimes, doctors do not treat the tumor until and unless it causes symptoms and harm. If the cancer is small and localized, a doctor may recommend the following treatment:
- Watchful waiting or monitoring
- Radiation therapy
- Conformal radiation therapy
- Proton beam radiation
If cancer develops further so it can expand all over the body. If cancer expands and comes back even after remission, the treatment options will be different. The treatment options include:
- Hormone therapy
- Bisphosphonate therapy
- Prostate cancer vaccine
- High-intensity focused ultrasound
The bottom line
If prostate cancer is detected through early stages, the treatment can be effective. Therefore, always go for routine screening as it helps doctors to identify the many cases of prostate cancer before they expand.
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