What Is Prostate Cancer?
The prostate is part of the male reproductive system and surrounds the neck of the bladder in males only. This gland secretes what’s known as prostatic fluid, which adds to the volume of human semen while also making it more alkaline. Additionally, the prostate also contains smooth muscle, which aids in ejaculation. Prostate cancer occurs when the cells that make up the prostate multiply in an unregulated manner, eventually forming a mass known as the primary tumor. Cells may also break away from the primary cell mass and spread to other areas of the body, further disrupting the healthy functioning of the body.
What Causes Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer develops as a result of changes to the genetic material within prostate cells. These changes result in the pattern of cell growth and division characteristic of prostate cancer. Although increased likelihood of developing prostate cancer is associated with the following factors, in most cases, physicians and scientists are still trying to determine what causes prostate cancer to develop:
- Chronic inflammation of the prostate
- Exposure to certain chemicals, such as Agent Orange
- Family history of cancer syndromes
- Family history of certain cancers
- Genetic mutations
- High levels of testosterone
- Overconsumption of saturated fats
- Personal history of certain cancers
- Testosterone supplementation
How Is Prostate Cancer Detected?
Our specialists collect information regarding medical history, surgical history, social history, and family history; conduct laboratory testing; and review radiological studies to approach patient care in the most comprehensive and personalized manner. Early detection of prostate cancer may be possible by way of laboratory testing for the levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. Methods for early detection of prostate cancer also include the digital rectal exam, in which a healthcare practitioner employs rectal insertion of a finger (also known as a “digit”) to see if the prostate has grown to a size larger than normal.
If prostate cancer is suspected, a doctor will likely order either a urine cytology, a cystoscopy, or an imaging study to help arrive at a diagnosis. A urine cytology is a test doctors use to see if there are any tumor cells in a urine sample. A cystoscopy allows doctors to see inside the body with the help of a flexible tube known as a cystoscope. Imaging studies might include a CT scan, digital rectal exam, PET scan, PET-CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI. A CT (computed tomography) scan uses X-rays to generate a three-dimensional picture of the body whereas a PET (positron emission tomography) scan uses a small amount of radioactive tracer to locate any cancer cells by how readily they take up the radiotracer. A PET-CT combines the features of CT scan with those of a PET scan. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses magnetic fields to generate a detailed representation of the body. Lastly, an ultrasound sends sound waves through the body to generate images of the body’s organs and tissues.
If upon review of your results your doctor notices a mass suspicious for prostate cancer, he or she will likely order a biopsy in order to make a diagnosis and plan treatment, if necessary.
Stages of Prostate Cancer
“Staging” occurs when a physician uses test and scan results to determine which parts of the body are involved by cancer, in this case prostate cancer. Staging is important because different stages of prostate cancer are better addressed with treatments which may differ in amount, combination, or type. According to the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC), the stages for prostate cancer are as follows:
The cancer is small enough that it cannot be felt on palpation, involves only less than or equal to one half of one side of the prostate, and does not involve any areas of the body beyond the prostate. This stage is also characterized by low levels of PSA.
The cancer has grown beyond Stage I size classification but remains confined to the prostate. This growth may or may not be associated with a noticeable increase in PSA levels.
Cancer in this stage is described as “locally advanced,” which means the cancer has spread, locally, beyond the prostate to invade nearby organs, such as the bladder.
The tumor has spread beyond the prostate into regional, distant lymph nodes, and/or other regions of the body far from the prostate.
Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
The following may be indicative of prostate cancer but may also be indicative of other illnesses:
- Abnormal, unexplained weight loss
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Blood in seminal fluid
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Darkening of the urine
- Difficulty urinating
- Discomfort upon sitting down
- Erectile dysfunction
- Frequent and/or painful urination
- Lower abdominal and/or back pain
- Needing to urinate at night (nocturia)
- Needing to urinate without the ability to pass urine
It is important you tell your doctor if you have any of these signs and symptoms, so he or she may determine their cause and plan treatment, if necessary.
How Is Prostate Cancer Treated?
Treatment of prostate cancer, depending on the stage and type, may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or surgery. These treatments may be used individually or in combination based on your doctor’s recommendations. It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options with your doctor to help make the decision that best fits your needs. Some important factors to consider when deciding on a prostate cancer treatment plan include
- Your age, health, and lifestyle.
- The stage of your cancer.
- Any other serious health conditions you have.
- Your feelings about the need to treat the cancer right away.
- Your doctor’s opinion about if you need to treat the cancer right away.
- The likelihood that treatment will help fight or cure your cancer.
- Possible side effects from each treatment method.
You may feel the need to make a quick decision, but it is very important to ask questions if there is anything about which you’re not entirely sure. It is very important for you and your doctor to communicate and work together to weigh the benefits of each treatment option against the possible adverse effects in order to ultimately determine which treatment option is best for you.
NYCBS Clinical Trials in Prostate Cancer
Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. Sometimes they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, contact New York Cancer and Blood Specialist today at (855) 528-7322 to learn more.