While prostate cancer education is vital year-round, the month of September is named as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a time of year when people, health care experts, and caregivers make an extra effort to raise awareness about prostate cancer and educate those at risk.
What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is a typically slow-growing cancer of the prostate gland, a walnut-sized organ located under the bladder and in front of the rectum. But in some cases, cancer can grow rapidly and spread beyond the prostate, a process known as metastasis.
Who gets prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men besides skin cancer, and 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime. About 192,000 men in the United States will develop prostate cancer this year. But because it usually progresses slowly, the death rate is relatively low at around 31,600 per year.
Older men are more likely to get prostate cancer. About 60 percent of cases are diagnosed in men 65 or older, and it is uncommon in men under 40. African-American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than white or Hispanic men, while Asian men have a lower risk.
What is prostate cancer screening?
Doctors primarily use two tests to screen for prostate cancer: the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and the digital rectal exam (DRE), in which a finger is inserted into the rectum to feel for lumps or swelling of the prostate.
The American Cancer Society recommends that at age 50, men should discuss the risks and benefits of screening with their doctor and make an individual decision. African American men and those with a family history of prostate cancer should start this discussion sooner, at 45 or even 40.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
In its early stages, prostate cancer often has no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can be like those of an enlarged prostate or BPH. Prostate cancer can also cause symptoms unrelated to BPH. If you have urinary problems, talk with your healthcare provider about them. Other symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- A frequent urge to urinate
- Difficulty urinating
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Difficulty getting an erection
- Pain in the lower back and hips
Some of these symptoms may also be caused by noncancerous enlargement of the prostate, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia. Men with metastatic prostate cancer may experience other symptoms, such as bone pain, as the cancer spreads.
How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
The process of diagnosing prostate cancer starts with a physical exam and health history. A doctor may do a digital rectal exam to determine the size and location of tumors. A biopsy, or small tissue sample, may be taken and examined in the laboratory to see if a growth is cancerous or benign. PSA tests and transrectal ultrasound imaging may be done to determine how advanced the cancer is. Other imagining methods such as computed tomography (CT) and MRI scans may be used to check whether the cancer has spread.
How is prostate cancer treated?
Treatment for prostate cancer depends on how advanced the cancer is when it is detected, including how large it is and whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Deciding what treatment you should get can be complex. Your treatment plan will depend on:
- The stage and grade of the cancer (Gleason score and TNM stage)
- Your risk category (whether the cancer is low, intermediate or high risk)
- Your age and health
- Your preferences with respect to side effects, long-term effects and treatment goals
Before you decide what to do, you should consider how immediate and long-term side effects from treatment will affect your life, and what you’re willing to tolerate. Also, you should consider that you may try different things over time.
If you have time before you start treatment, consider your range of options. Get a second opinion from different prostate cancer experts. You may need to see another urologist, oncologist, or radiation oncologist. Consider the expertise of your doctor before you begin. With more experienced surgeons, the risk of permanent side effects (like incontinence) is lower. Also, it helps to talk with other survivors and learn from their experiences.
Treatment choices for prostate cancer include:
- Active surveillance: with this approach, meaning treatment is not started immediately but the cancer is carefully monitored with regular scans and PSA tests to see whether it progresses. For some men, a less intensive approach known as watchful waiting is appropriate.
- Surgery: Surgery for prostate cancer usually removes the entire prostate gland, known as radical prostatectomy. This can lead to side effects including urinary incontinence and problems getting an erection.
- Radiation: Radiotherapy may be used to target and kill any cancer tumors before surgery as well as cancer cells that remain after surgery. There is no incisions, and there is no post-surgery recovery period.
- Focal therapies: Methods including freezing (cryotherapy) and heat may be used to destroy cancer cells, especially for small tumors.
- Chemotherapy: Traditional chemotherapy works by killing fast-growing cells, including cancer cells. It can also destroy rapidly dividing healthy cells, such as those in the gut or hair follicles, leading to side effects including nausea and hair loss.
- Hormone therapy: Androgen deprivation therapy works by depriving tumors of testosterone, which stimulates their growth. Side effects may include reduced sexual desire, hot flashes, bone loss and breast enlargement.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted drugs work against cancers with specific characteristics. Medications known as PARP inhibitors have shown promise for prostate cancer.
- Immunotherapy: The newest type of treatment helps the immune system fight cancer. One method involves removing a sample of T cells, training them in the laboratory to attack cancer cells and putting them back into the body.
What Happens After Treatment?
Each year, more men are surviving prostate cancer and winning back their lives. Prostate cancer can be a manageable disease if caught early and treated appropriately.
Talk to your healthcare provider about the side effects or problems you have after treatment. You and your healthcare provider can decide your best next steps.
Game Changing Innovation In The Fight Against Cancer
The Medical Group of South Florida is the only cancer treatment center within Palm Beach County with access to this game-changing treatment platform. The Halcyon system is a brand-new weapon in the fight against cancer that we are more than proud to now be able to offer you.
Let’s fight this cancer together. Even if you have just been diagnosed with prostate cancer, schedule a consultation with Dr. Addesa to learn about your options.
Questions? Call 561-622-6111 to find out more information.