Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men (after skin cancer), but it can often be treated successfully. If you have prostate cancer or are close to someone who does, knowing what to expect can help you cope.
What Is Prostate Cancer?
Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer cells, and can spread to other areas of the body. Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland start to grow uncontrollably. The prostate is a gland found only in males. It makes some of the fluid that is part of semen.
The more you know about the normal development and function of the prostate, where it’s located, and what it’s attached to, the better you can understand how prostate cancer develops and impacts a man’s life over time—due either to cancer growth or as a result of treatments.
The prostate is a small, squishy Gland about the size of a walnut. It sits under the bladder and in front of the Rectum.
The bladder holds your urine until you are ready to void, and is like a balloon that gets larger as it fills with urine.
The Urethra is a the narrow tube that connects to the bladder, runs right through the middle of the prostate, and runs through the length of the penis and carries both urine and semen out of the body. It is the hose that drains the bladder.
The rectum is the lower end of your intestines and it sits right behind the prostate.
The seminal vesicles are rabbit eared structures that store and secrete a large portion of your ejaculate. These structures sit on top of the prostate.
The neurovascular bundle is just that, a bundle of nerves and vessels that run along each side of the prostate. These nerves and vessels help control erectile function. They sometimes are a short distance away from the prostate, but sometimes they are adherent to the prostate itself.
The prostate is not essential for life, but is important for reproduction. It supplies substances that facilitate fertilization and sperm transit and survival. Enzymes like PSA (the same protein that is measured in the blood test that you may have already had) are actually used to loosen up semen to help sperm reach the egg during intercourse. (Sperm is not made in the prostate, but rather the testes.)
Other substances made by the seminal vesicles and prostate—such as zinc, citrate, and fructose—give sperm energy to make this journey. Substances like antibodies may protect the urinary tract and sperm from bacteria and other pathogens.
The prostate typically grows during adolescence under the control of the male HormoneTestosterone and its byproduct DHT, or dihydrotestosterone. Testosterone is primarily made in the testes, but a smaller amount is also made in the adrenal glands above your kidneys.
Types of prostate cancer
Almost all prostate cancers are adenocarcinoma. These cancers develop from the gland cells (the cells that make the prostate fluid that is added to the semen).
Other types of prostate cancer include:
- Small cell carcinomas
- Neuroendocrine tumors (other than small cell carcinomas)
- Transitional cell carcinomas
These other types of prostate cancer are rare. If you have prostate cancer it is almost certain to be an adenocarcinoma.
Some prostate cancers can grow and spread quickly, but most grow slowly. In fact, autopsy studies show that many older men (and even some younger men) who died of other causes also had prostate cancer that never affected them during their lives. In many cases neither they nor their doctors even knew they had it.
Possible pre-cancerous conditions of the prostate
Some research suggests that prostate cancer starts out as a pre-cancerous condition, although this is not yet known for sure. These conditions are sometimes found when a man has a prostate biopsy (removal of small pieces of the prostate to look for cancer).
Prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN)
In PIN, there are changes in how the prostate gland cells look under a microscope, but the abnormal cells don’t look like they are growing into other parts of the prostate (like cancer cells would). Based on how abnormal the patterns of cells look, they are classified as:
- Low-grade PIN: the patterns of prostate cells appear almost normal
- High-grade PIN: the patterns of cells look more abnormal
PIN begins to appear in the prostates of some men as early as in their 20s.
Many men begin to develop low-grade PIN when they are younger but don’t necessarily develop prostate cancer. The possible link between low-grade PIN and prostate cancer is still unclear.
If high-grade PIN is found in your prostate biopsy sample, there is about a 20% chance that you also have cancer in another area of your prostate.
Proliferative inflammatory atrophy (PIA)
In PIA, the prostate cells look smaller than normal, and there are signs of inflammation in the area. PIA is not cancer, but researchers believe that PIA may sometimes lead to high-grade PIN, or perhaps to prostate cancer directly.
The prostate is divided into several anatomic regions, or zones. Most prostate cancer develops from the peripheral zone (the back of the prostate) near the rectum. That’s why a digital rectal exam (DRE) is a useful Screening test as the Doctor’s finger can feel the peripheral zone.
Ultrasound of the prostate
Lower urinary tract symptoms due to Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), which is a non-cancerous prostate condition, typically develops from the transition zone that surrounds the urethra, or urinary tube (it is more in the middle of the prostate). This is why BPH may cause more difficulty with urination than prostate cancer typically does.
The conversation about PSA Screening really applies to men that have no symptoms. However, in rare cases prostate cancer can cause symptoms and you need to be aware of what they are.
What are the early warning symptoms of prostate cancer? Usually there aren’t any. Truly, there are no early warning symptoms for prostate cancer. That’s why screening is such an important topic.
Why no symptoms? For many years, the disease is silent.
But according to the World Health Organization, prostate cancer is one of the most common causes of death among men and there is:
12 Early Warning Signs of Prostate Cancer That Every Guy Needs to Know! Do NOT Ignore!
Unfortunately in most cases, prostate cancer symptoms only appear in the cancer’s early development.
The symptoms of prostate cancer are different for each man so never rule out the possibility that some of these symptoms may be caused by other illnesses.
It’s extremely important, especially for men past the age of 50, to undergo medical examinations to find out potential problems in their bodies.
Protect yourself and look out for these symptoms early on to prevent any possible complications.
12 Early Warning Signs of Prostate Cancer
1. Frequent urges to urinate especially during the evening
2. Difficulties in urination when in the standing position. There is also difficulty in starting and ending the urination process.
3. Decreased flow of urine and changing the color of urine.
4. A burning sensation during urination
5. An unpleasant feeling at the beginning of the urination process
6. Pain or numbness that occurs in the hips, thighs, legs and/or lower back
7. Bone pain which may leads to fractures
8. Discomfort and Swelling in legs or pelvic area
9. Problems with ejaculation – Painful ejaculation
10. Impotence – Erectile Dysfunction
11. Blood in urine (Hematuria)
12. Blood in semen (Hematospermia)
Remember to visit your doctor if you experience any of these signs and symptoms.
However, urinary symptoms don’t mean you have cancer! Prostatitis or BPH(Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, also known as enlargement of the prostate) can cause similar symptoms and are very common.
What about difficulty in having an erection? Again, this is most likely not caused by cancer, but by something else, such as diabetes, smoking, cardiovascular disease, or just plain getting older.
That said: Symptoms are symptoms, and no matter what’s causing them, you should get them checked out by a doctor.
Some drugs might help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
5-alpha reductase inhibitors
The drugs finasteride (Proscar) and dutasteride (Avodart) have been studied to see if they can lower prostate cancer risk, but it’s not clear if the benefits outweigh the risks for most men. Still, men who want to know more about these drugs should discuss them with their doctors. These drugs are currently used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous growth of the prostate.
Some research suggests that men who take a daily aspirin might have a lower risk of getting and dying from prostate cancer. But more research is needed to show if the possible benefits outweigh the risks, such as an increased risk of bleeding.
Other drugs and dietary supplements that might help lower prostate cancer risk are now being tested in clinical trials. But so far, none have been proven to do so.
Can Prostate Cancer Be Prevented?
There is no sure way to prevent prostate cancer. Many risk factors such as age, race, and family history can’t be controlled. But there are some things you can do that might lower your risk of prostate cancer.
Body weight, Physical activity, and Diet
The effects of body weight, physical activity, and diet on prostate cancer risk are not clear, but there are things you can do that might lower your risk, such as:
- Being physically active.
- Staying at a healthy weight.
- Avoid obesity
- Cut down on total fat intake.
- Eat more fibers, like raw fruits and vegetables and whole grain cereals.
- Included foods rich in vitamin A and C in the daily diet.
- Include cruciferous vegetables in the diet like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts.
- Be moderate in the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
- Be moderate of salt-cured, smoked cured and nitrite-cured foods.
- High intake of fats maybe associated with breast, colon and prostate cancer.
- Low intake of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates and fibers are linked with cancer of the colon, larynx, esophagus, prostate, bladder, stomach and lungs.
Vitamin and minerals
Some earlier studies suggested that taking certain vitamin or mineral supplements, such as vitamin E or selenium, might lower prostate cancer risk. But in a large study, neither vitamin E nor selenium was found to lower prostate cancer risk.
Several studies are now looking at the possible effects of soy proteins (called isoflavones) on prostate cancer risk. The results of these studies are not yet available.
Recommended Food Supplements
Warning!! Any supplement has the potential for both risks and benefits. Before taking vitamins or other supplements, talk with your doctor.
As I mentioned above you need to eat more fibers, like raw fruits and vegetables and whole grain cereals. Included foods rich in vitamin A and C in the daily diet. You also need to include cruciferous vegetables in the diet like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
Because these fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radical damage may lead to cancer. Antioxidants interact with and stabilize free radicals and may prevent some of the damage free radicals might otherwise cause.
Eating fruits and vegetables not only can prevent cancer, these can also prevent hundreds of diseases.
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There’s no way we can eat all these in one day, especially in our busy lifestyle.
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