The prostrate is a small organ the size of a walnut found below the bladder. Prostate health problems, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or enlarged prostate gland, most commonly occur among men 50 years and older. The symptoms of these different health problems usually are also the symptoms of prostate cancer.
The cause of prostate cancer is unknown, but some risk factors include advancing age, family history, ethnic background and lifestyle.
In the early stages, prostate cancer shows no symptoms for many years. Usually, it is detected via the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test for lump examination. The PSA blood test and examination for lumps are the initial tests administered to check for prostate cancer. If these tests administer abnormal results, a biopsy of the prostate gland using ultrasound done transrectally is conducted. A small piece of prostate tissue is then withdrawn through a cutting needle, and a pathologist examines the tissue for cancer cells, by using a microscope.
There are, however, early warning signs that could point to prostate cancer specially if it occurs to a man over 40 years old.
What are some of the warning signs?
- Blood in the urine. During urination, the tumor may press against the urethra, which may then cause the bleeding. There is a possibility that the bleeding is not caused by a tumor. Even so, this symptom might be indicative of another ailment and should be checked by a doctor immediately.
- Difficulty when urinating. The tumor presses against the urethra causing the vessels to squash together. When this happens, the person with this condition may experience problems such as difficulty in starting urination, dribbling (or starting and stopping while urinating), emptying of the bladder is not complete, force of the stream is reduced, urination of small amounts becoming frequent, pain with urination, and a feeling of urgency when the need to urinate arises (having to rush when going to the toilet).
- Pain in the lower back, hips and groin. The prostate is situated around the lower back, hips and groin so pain might occur around these areas due to a prostate problem.
- Ejaculation pain or erectile dysfunction.
Prostate cancer can be categorized into three types:
- localized prostate cancer where the cancer is still situated within the prostate gland
- locally advanced prostate cancer which has the cancer spread into the nearby tissues
- advanced prostate cancer which has the cancer spread (metastasize, or grow bigger) into other parts of the body, usually the lower spine and pelvic bones.
Even without the above symptoms, it is recommended that men undertake regular rectal examination starting when they are 40 years old, and PSA blood test starting at 50 years old. These tests should be done annually to screen for prostate cancer. As with most other ailments, the patient has better chances of fighting the disease when it is diagnosed early on.
Typical methods to treat prostate cancer are through radiotherapy (which involves high doses of radiation to kill the cancer cells), surgery (to remove the entire prostate gland, applicable to localized prostate cancer), and chemotherapy.