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Prostate Cancer

Definition of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in a man's prostate a small walnut-shaped gland that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Prostate cancer usually grows slowly and initially remains confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Prostate cancer that is detected early when it's still confined to the prostate gland has a better chance of successful treatment.

Alternative Names

Cancer - prostate

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer

Though there are no symptoms of prostate cancer, but if incurred, may have the following:

  • The urge to urinate frequently
  • Disturbed sleep as there is need to urinate
  • Delay or hesitancy before urinating
  • Difficulty or pain when passing water
  • The feeling that the bladder has not emptied completely
  • Pain or stiffness in the pelvis, lower back and hips
  • One should note that there could be other reasons that are non-cancerous conditions, which are the cause of these symptoms.

In advanced stages of prostate cancer, the following symptoms could be seen:

  • Bone pain
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Pain in the loins, pelvis or lower back

Causes, and risk factors of Prostate Cancer

No single cause of prostate cancer has been identified. There are likely a variety of causes and contributing factors that lead to prostate cancer. The major known risk factors for prostate cancer are age, race and family history. Although there are no conclusive data, diet and other environmental factors may play a role as well.

  • Age - Age is the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is very rare before the age of 40, but the chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50. Almost 2 out of 3 prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65.
  • Race/ethnicity - Prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men than in men of other races. African-American men are also more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage, and are more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men. Prostate cancer occurs less often in Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino men than in non-Hispanic whites. The reasons for these racial and ethnic differences are not clear.
  • Nationality - Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and on Caribbean islands. It is less common in Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America. The reasons for this are not clear. More intensive screening in some developed countries likely accounts for at least part of this difference, but other factors are likely to be important as well. For example, lifestyle differences (diet, etc.) may be important: men of Asian descent living in the United States have a lower risk of prostate cancer than white Americans, but their risk is higher than that of men of similar backgrounds living in Asia.
  • Family history - Prostate cancer seems to run in some families, which suggests that in some cases there may be an inherited or genetic factor. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man's risk of developing this disease. (The risk is higher for men with an affected brother than for those with an affected father.) The risk is much higher for men with several affected relatives, particularly if their relatives were young at the time the cancer was found.
  • Vitamin D & Sunlight - Vitamin D is known to protect the body against cancer. While vitamin D is contained in milk and some fish, the main source is from the skin, which forms vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. Studies have shown that people living in regions that get less sunlight have higher rates of prostate cancer. This may also help to explain some of the racial differences in the incidence of prostate cancer. People with dark skin absorb less sunlight and are known to have lower levels of vitamin D.
  • Circulating Male Hormone Level - Lifetime risk of prostate cancer may be linked to the amount of the male hormone testosterone circulating in a man's body as early as puberty or even in utero, although direct evidence of this link remains to be shown. Prostate cancer cell growth may be fueled by the presence of testosterone. Therefore, one of the most common treatments for prostate cancer, especially if it returns after first-line treatment, is the complete suppression of testosterone production and action in the body. (Hormone Therapy). It has also been shown that men who have their testicles surgically removed (orchiectomy; castrated) before puberty rarely develop prostate cancer. However, these observations do not prove that prostate cancer is caused by high levels of testosterone in the body.

Treatment for Prostate Cancer

The treatment options for prostate cancer depend in part on your age, your overall health and whether the tumor has spread. For tumors that are still inside the prostate, radiation therapy (using a type of X-rays to kill the cancer cells) and a surgery called radical prostatectomy are common treatment options. "Watchful waiting" is also a treatment option. In this approach, no treatment is given until the tumor gets bigger. Watchful waiting may be the best choice for an older man who has a higher risk of dying from something other than his prostate cancer.

Usually, tumors that have grown beyond the edge of the prostate can't be cured with either radiation or surgery. They can be treated with hormones that slow the cancer's growth.

Complications of Prostate Cancer

Impotence is a potential complication after prostate removal or radiation therapy. Recent improvements in surgical procedures have made this complication less common. Urinary incontinence is another possible complication. Medications can have side effects, including hot flashes and loss of sexual desire.

Prevention of Prostate Cancer

Unfortunately, risk factors for prostate cancer, such as age, race, and family history, cannot be prevented or modified. However, you can mitigate your risk of developing prostate cancer (and all cancers) by eating a nutritious, balanced diet and leading a healthy lifestyle.

The expertise recommends eating a variety of healthful foods, with an emphasis on eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. It is also wise to limit your intake of red meats, especially those high in fat or processed. Bread, cereals, grain products, rice, pasta and beans are also recommended.

Certain vitamins found in fruits and vegetables, such as lycopenes, contain antioxidants that help prevent damage to DNA and may help lower prostate cancer risk, according to the expertise. Select clinical trials are looking at the role of selenium and vitamin E in the prevention of prostate cancer, and although such vitamins are recommended, concerns have recently been raised about excessive use of vitamin E supplements.

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