Prostate cancer is the second most common and second most deadly form of cancer among men in the world. The prostate gland is a doughnut-shaped cluster of glands located at the bottom of the bladder about halfway between the rectum and the base of the penis. The prostate is not essential for life but is important for reproduction. The main function of the prostate gland is to store and produce seminal fluid. Seminal fluid is a milky liquid that transports and nourishes sperm. For normal functioning of the prostate it requires male hormones, like testosterone, to help regulate bladder control and normal sexual functioning.
Prostate cancer is cancer affecting the prostate gland. Prostate cancer grows slowly and may not spread for many years. The older you are the more likely you are to develop prostate cancer. It is rare in men younger than 40 years of age. Risk factors for developing prostate cancer include being over 65 years of age, family history of prostate cancer and some genetic factors. Blacks have been shown to also have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. One of the common myths on the risk of prostate cancer is high levels of sexual activity or frequent ejaculation. The fact is, some studies have shown that men who report more frequent ejaculations may have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. In addition, having a vasectomy was originally thought to increase a man’s risk to develop prostate cancer, but this has since been disproved.
The main symptoms of prostate cancer include; Problems with passing urine e.g., pain during urination, difficulty starting or stopping the stream; loss of weight and appetite; blood in urine; painful ejaculation and lower back pain. Diagnosis of prostate cancer is made by feeling the prostate through the wall of the rectum during a digital rectal examination or doing a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Other tests include ultrasound, x-rays, or a biopsy.
Treatment often depends on the stage of the cancer and a combination of treatments might be used. There is no “one size fits all” treatment for prostate cancer. Men with prostate cancer have many treatment options. The treatment that’s best for one man may not be best for another. The options include watchful waiting also known as active surveillance where the prostate cancer is carefully watched for any progression and if there are changes then treatment is started; prostatectomy which is the surgical removal of all or part of the prostate; radiation therapy; hormone therapy also known as androgen-deprivation therapy or ADT, is designed to stop testosterone from being released or to prevent it from acting on the prostate cells. Testosterone is the main fuel for prostatic cells growth; and chemotherapy. Depending on the treatment strategy used, side effects might be witnessed. These include; Urinary dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, erectile dysfunction, loss of fertility, side effects of hormone therapy and side effects of chemotherapy
A regular prostate exam can help with early detection of prostate cancer. The question of screening is a personal and complex one. When to start screening is generally based on individual risk, with age 40 being a reasonable time to start screening for those at highest risk.
Other conditions affecting the prostate gland that are of importance include prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland. It is often the result of infectious bacteria that invades the prostate from another area of the body. Benign prostatic hyperplasia is a non cancerous growth of the prostate that can interfere with urination. Symptoms include: urgent feeling to urinate, weak urinary stream, frequent need to urinate, and involuntary discharge of urine.