Prostate Cancer – Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Diagnosis
Cancer in general refers to the medical condition in which the cells in a particular part of the body show abnormal growth. Prostate cancer affects the prostate gland in men and is known to kill around 30,000 patients every year. Approximately 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer over the course of their lifetime.
Symptoms to watch out for
The prostate cancer does not manifest any signs at its early stage. Actually, the cancerous growth of the prostate gland produces indications only when it has grown enough to block the urethra. Due to the slow growth of the disease, most of the prostate cancer cases become known only at advanced stages.
However, in some men prostate cancer develops at a higher speed. Such men encounter specific symptoms which if detected should be a sign to immediately take action. Otherwise the cancer can spread to other parts of the body and be fatal. That is why early detection holds the key to faster cure and survival from prostate cancer.
The few symptoms, which can facilitate early detection, are described below:
– Discomfort such as pain or irritation at the time of passing urine
– Weak urine stream
– Swollen legs
– Retention of the urine post urination
– Having to use force to begin urination
The above-mentioned symptoms can be summed up as urinary troubles and can very easily be confused with less severe and non life threatening conditions such as BPH and prostatis or even common urinary infections. While there is no need to panic, it is definitely a must to visit a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
At the later stage of prostate cancer the symptoms become severe and they start interfering with the patient’s lifestyle. The early symptoms continue to exist. Along with them, the patient has to endure other physical traumas too, which include:
– Absence of urinary flow even after exerting hard to urinate
– Occasional pauses in the urine flow
– Need to use the washroom at shorter intervals
– Urine and/or semen showing traces of blood
Factors that escalate risks of getting prostate cancer
Certain factors make some men more likely to have the cancer of the prostate. The risk factors are mentioned below:
Age. The men, who are 40 years old or more have greater chances of getting this cancer. It is even more common in men who are 50 years of age and older. The possibility of having the cancer grows with age. Around 65% of men, who are 75 years old, are diagnosed with microscopic evidence of prostate cancer.
Genetics. Having single member in the family as prostate cancer patient doubles the possibility of getting it. The risk becomes 11 times stronger if there are 3 people in the family with the disease. If a man inherits the gene called HPC1 (hereditary prostate cancer), he should be especially watchful about the health of his prostate gland.
Ethnic identity. It has been found that men belonging to African-American ethnicity are highly prone to this disease. They not only get prostate cancer at a younger age but also are very likely to suffer from its aggressive type. Another startling factor is that the countries with the highest meat and dairy consumption are also those countries with the highest incidence of prostate cancer. New Zealand, Australia, Western Europe and the United States, the so called developed countries, are significant consumers of meat and dairy products and have the highest rates of cancer according to WHO (World Health Organization ) statistics.
Food choices. Though it is still not conclusive, studies indicate that men who eat fat-rich food develop prostate cancer more. Red meat and dairy items also increase the risk. Similarly, high intake of vegetables, fruits and grains cuts down the possibility of this disease.
Other diseases. Studies are being carried out for establishing the possible relationships between certain diseases and prostate cancer. Researchers are trying to discover if men who suffer from prostatitis are more prone to developing prostate cancer. So far no such evidence exists. Similarly, the role of venereal diseases such as herpes, in causing prostate cancer is being explored.
Prostate cancer may manifest through discomfort in bones!
When the cancer fails to show any initial symptoms, it remains undiagnosed and hence, grows unchecked. It is important to pay attention to you body and any symptoms at all that are unusual to you. Most of the time the cancer attacks the bones and the patient experiences pain in the pelvic zone and the back.
How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
The procedure to determine the existence of prostate cancer begins with two tests – DRE (Digital Rectal Examination) and PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen). The aim of these tests is to reveal if there is any abnormality present in the prostate gland. However, even if the results of these tests are positive it does not confirm that the patient has cancer. Rather based on these results the doctor can decide whether the gland is functioning normally or not.
During the DRE, the physician checks the prostate for deformity in terms of its shape. Via the rectum of the patient, the physician introduces a gloved lubricated finger and feels the gland. Any kind of protrusion or change in texture can indicate that the gland is not normal anymore.
Similarly, in the PSA test the level of PSA is detected through a blood test. Cancer-ridden prostate is known to produce a higher amount of PSA than what the normal one produces. Hence with this test the abnormal secretion of PSA by the gland can be caught.
After PSA and DRE
In case, the physician finds cancer-indicating evidences in DRE and PSA reports then he will suggest a biopsy for the patient. Although biopsy is widely used as a procedure for detecting prostate cancer, it is not foolproof. Often, biopsy fails to recognize the cancerous condition of the prostate gland. For avoiding any scope of error, the doctor may advise another biopsy test based on the severity of the symptoms experienced by the patient.
The biopsy is conducted by way of a transrectal ultrasound scanner and a needle. The scanner and the needle are entered into the rectum and 12 tissue samples of the prostate gland are collected. These samples are then tested for the detection of the cancerous cells in the gland.