Every man has the prostate, but not every man knows what it is. But understanding your prostate functioning is important, as it not only plays an important role in the male reproductive system, but is also being a subject to the most unpleasant and dangerous diseases that only affect man, including prostate cancer. The prostate gland is located between the bladder and the rectum. The urethra, which is a canal for passing urine and semen, goes through it. The prostate contributes to the production of semen liquid and has an impact on male fertility.
Prostate cancer is cancer #1 in men, but, at the same time, it has the highest survival rate among all types of cancer: in the U.S. and other developed countries, 5 year survival rate for prostate cancer is about 90%. That means 90% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive after 5 years. Many of them live much longer than 5 years, but the 5-year rate is a standard indicator agreed for measuring the effect of the disease. It is often used for comparative statistics.
Prostate cancer is rare before 40 and its probability is gradually growing with age. More than 60% of all prostate cancers occur in men after 65 years old. Timely diagnosing is one of the main factors of successful treatment of the disease. Knowing the symptoms and turning to the doctor at early stage helps men to eliminate the malignant disease from the root.
Prostate Cancer: Early Symptoms
Prostate cancer in the early stages often reveals no symptoms. Malignant tumors in the prostate grow slower than any others. It could take years before the first symptoms appear. Many men live and die with prostate cancer (but not of prostate cancer!) without knowing they had it. So, if you are older than 50, it is time to have prostate cancer screening. Those who are genetically prone to the condition (have one or more close relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer) are recommended to start earlier.
The first symptom of prostate cancer is changes in urination, which may include:
- Difficulties to start urinating;
- More frequent urination, especially in the nighttime;
- Urination with smaller portion;
- False urges to urinate;
- Pain when urinating;
- Burning when urinating;
- Blood in urine;
Among the sings related to sexual function are:
- Painful ejaculation;
- Blood in semen;
- Erectile dysfunction.
All the above symptoms are non-specific and can be related to many urological diseases or improper sexual functioning. But having one or more of them is a good reason to see an urologist shortly.
Prostate Cancer: Advanced Symptoms
In the advanced stage, cancer can reveal new symptoms.
When growing, a tumor can block the urethra, which makes impossible to empty the bladder. When it happens, a patient needs urgent medical assistance to empty the bladder with a catheter.
In case of urine retention, as well as a blockage of the tubes connecting the kidney and the bladder, kidneys are not drained well and can accumulate waste products, which leads to permanent kidney problems and intoxication.
This condition can produce the following symptoms:
- Lack of appetite.
- Swollen feet and ankles;
- Bone pain
Bone pain appears when cancer spreads throughout the body and affects the bones including the spine. Pain is normally severe and does not go away. The bones also can become easy to fracture.
Anemia is the result of metastases spreading into the spinal cord. When bone marrow is affected, you may recognize this by the following:
Spinal cord compression
When a metastatic tumor is located in the spine, growing, it creates pressure on the spinal cord, which can be revealed by the below symptoms:
- Swelling of the legs and pelvic area;
- Difficulties moving arms;
- Difficulties to empty the bowel.
Swelling of the lymph nodes
The lymph nodes are also enlarged as a result of bone marrow lesion, which causes blood and lymphatic system problems.
Unexplained weight loss
Loss of appetite and unwillingness is a sign of body intoxication.
The 5-year survival rate in patients with advanced prostate cancer, in case they developed metastases, is as low as 3%. To avoid the fatal situation, when nothing can help, health care programs in many developed countries include preventive measures and blood tests for specific tumor markers.
Prostate Cancer Diagnosing
The first measure that helps to detect prostate cancer in the very beginning is screening. Though some discussions have arisen recently on what is a valid screening for prostate cancer, currently, there are some specific tests related to prostate cancer.
It is a blood test aimed to count prostate-specific antigens (PSA) in patient’s blood to determine a danger of prostate cancer. Please keep in mind, that it is not objective test and it should be re-confirmed by the other diagnostic means, but the level of PSA, a protein produced by the prostate gland, may indicate a possible cancerous process. Sometimes, it may be also a sign of the other prostate problems.
Depending on level of PSA level the risk of prostate cancer can vary as below:
- Less than 4 ng/ml – 15%;
- Between 4 -10 ng/ml – about 30%;
- More than 10 ng/ml – higher than 50%.
When the elevation of PSA level is detected, normally, a biopsy is used to determine cancer cells.
The digital rectal exam is performed by finger through the rectum to examine all possible abnormalities in the pelvic area. Same as the previous test, it is a preliminary examination that only can indicate some problems, such as changes in size and shape, tissue hardening, etc. When a doctor finds something suspicious during a procedure, it requires further examination.
Biopsy of the prostate is one of the most trusted methods to detect cancer. An urologist or cancer surgeon takes small pieces of tissues from different parts of the gland for cytological examination. This procedure takes about 10 minutes for gathering the specimens and another few days for analyzing the samples. Only using biopsy, it is possible to verify diagnosis.
Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) is done by probe through the rectum to examine the prostate gland with ultrasound. It is a simple but effective procedure lasting for about 10 minutes and is often performed together with biopsy.
You Can Fight Prostate Cancer
Early diagnosing with prostate cancer gives you a chance to take measures timely and combat cancer before it develops into an advanced stage. Though common, prostate cancer is not as deadly as many other types and many people live long lives after diagnosing. Some types of prostate cancer never evolve to the highest degrees and even may be left untreated under permanent monitoring. Cancer is not necessarily a sentence, you can manage this.