The prostate is the size of a walnut and is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It goes all the way around the urethra, a tube that carries urine from the bladder and out the penis. The main job of the prostate is to make fluid for semen. As a man ages, his chance of having prostate cancer goes up. In fact it’s the second most common cancer—and the second leading cause of cancer death—among American men.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
When prostate cancer is in its early stages, only a few men will experience symptoms. This can include pain or urinary problems, such as slowing of the urinary stream or more frequent urination.
Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer
Because there are no warning signs, doctors use the following screening tests to detect cancer early:
- Digital rectal examination (DRE): This is a physical exam during which your urology specialist will insert a lubricated gloved finger into to the rectum to feel the surface of the prostate. If the prostate has a hard spot or feels uneven, that can be a sign of prostate cancer.
- Blood test: Your urology specialist may use a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a protein made by cells inside the prostate. A healthy prostate does not release very much PSA so if a PSA level is high, it may be a sign of prostate cancer.
- Biopsy: Where there is a concern about prostate cancer, a biopsy is needed to prove it. During this procedure, a needle is used to take small pieces of tissue from the prostate. A pathologist than looks at the tissue samples to determine if there is cancer.
Treatment of Prostate Cancer
If prostate cancer is found, it is given a grade, which is a measure of how quickly the cancer is likely to grow and spread. Treatment is determined by the aggressiveness of the cancer and:
- Life expectancy—When a man’s life expectancy is long, prostate cancer may cause illness and death. In later years, or when he has other serious diseases, the chance that his prostate cancer will get worse or that he will die from it is less
- Overall health—this includes your health history and that of your family as well as your current health. For some men, their overall health may influence the risk of problems they may experience from treatments.
- Personal preference—some men want their cancer removed no matter how old they are or what grade or stage their tumor is. Others are concerned about how certain treatments can impact their quality of life.
Prostate cancer is typically treated using:
- Active surveillance—Because some prostate cancers never become life threatening, your urology specialist may suggest active surveillance or watchful waiting. PSA and DRE are checked and prostate biopsies may be done on a regular basis.
- Radiation therapy—there are two types: interstitial prostate brachytherapy and external beam radiation therapy. With interstitial prostate brachytherapy, small radioactive “seeds” are planted in the prostate. With external beam radiation therapy, the prostate and other tissues are treated with a targeted beam of radiation. Both seeds and beam can be combined with one another.
- Surgery—During surgery (called “radical prostatectomy”) the entire prostate and nearby tissues are removed.
Other treatments, such as hormonal therapy and cryotherapy, have been used, but it’s not known how well these treatments work. Hormonal therapy may lessen the cancer symptoms but it makes heart disease and diabetes worse in those who have these diseases. Cryotherapy uses gases to freeze and then thaw the prostate. You’re encouraged to talk to your urology specialists about these options, as well as new forms of therapy being tested in studies.
Request an Appointment
If you suspect you have prostate cancer, please contact us to make an appointment with the experts at Mercy Specialty Clinics, Urology, the best urology clinic in Johnson County.