Prostate cancer - importance of regular diagnostics
Last updated date: 04-Jan-2022
4 mins read
What is prostate cancer? Prostate cancer is a cancer that occurs in the prostate organ — a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. It is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Prostate cancer mainly affects older men. The majority of cases are seen in men over 65, but less than 1% are men who are under 50. Usually prostate cancer grows slowly and is initially confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types of prostate cancer are aggressive and can spread quickly to other parts of the body. When detected early enough for treatment, success is likely and can prevent serious spread of the disease to other organs.
What are some of the common symptoms of prostate cancer? Prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages. However, prostate cancer when it is in more advanced state may cause signs and symptoms such as trouble urinating, decreased force in the stream of urine, blood in semen, discomfort in the pelvic area, bone pain, and erectile dysfunction (difficulty in maintaining erection).
Some factors that can increase your risk of prostate cancer include:
As you get older, the risk of prostate cancer goes up.
Black men have a greater risk of developing prostate cancer than do men of other races. In black men, prostate cancer is also more likely to be pronounced and late stage.
If men in your family have had prostate cancer, your risk may be higher. Also, if you have a family history of genes that increase the risk of breast cancer or a very strong family history of breast cancer, your risk of prostate cancer risk may be higher.
Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer may be more likely to develop more difficult to treat late stage disease.
Regular screening is important as one ages as the risk factors do increase. Also, many are not aware of the presence of prostate cancer as the symptoms may not exist yet. A combination of PSA (prostate specific antigen) test and digital rectal exam (DRE) is the standard for screening, usually once a year when men turn 50 or beginning at 40 if there is family history of prostate cancer. It also helps urologists detect and treat patients before advanced metastatic prostate cancer develops. Both of these tests can aide in the diagnosis of prostate cancer.
PSA (prostate specific antigen) is obtained through a blood sample. It is a protein produced by prostate cells and normally only a small amount of PSA gets into the bloodstream. The normal range varies with age and race. However, when the prostate is irritated, inflamed, or damaged, PSA leaks into the bloodstream more easily, causing the level to be higher. A high PSA level is not proof of presence of cancer, as many other things can cause false positive test results, as listed above. And a low PSA does not necessarily mean absence of prostate cancer. Once a baseline PSA has been obtained, the rate of change of the PSA is important. It should be monitored at least once a year, but more often if necessary.
Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
A digital rectal exam (DRE) is performed by a doctor by feeling the prostate. The rectal exam is done to check the size, firmness, and texture of the prostate through the rectum. Any hard areas, lumps, or growth spreading beyond the prostate may warrant further testing, such as a biopsy. If the prostate is enlarged, some discomfort or mild pain may be felt during the exam, but pain is rare. You may also feel the need to urinate during the procedure.
Prevention is key. Eating healthy foods by avoiding high-fat foods and focusing on a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and nutrients that can contribute to your good health. Also, regular exercise improves your overall health, helps you maintain your weight and improves your mental wellbeing. There is some evidence that men who exercise may have a lower risk of prostate cancer.
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