Prostate Cancer Explained
What Is The Prostate?
The prostate is a part of the male reproductive system, which is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is about the size of a walnut and surrounds the urethra. The prostate is a gland found only in males and its primary function is to produce seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.
What Is The Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. Many prostate cancers grow slowly and are confined to the prostate gland, where they may not cause serious harm. However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly. Prostate cancer begins when the cells in the prostate develop changes in their DNA.
The changes tell the cells to grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells do. The abnormal cells continue living when other cells would die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor that can grow to invade nearby tissue. In time, some abnormal cells can break away and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body
Prostate cancer that’s detected early — when it’s still confined to the prostate gland — has the best chance for successful treatment.
What Are Risk Factors Of Prostate Cancer?
Some factors that can increase your risk of prostate cancer include:
- Older age.Your risk of prostate cancer increases as you age. It’s most common after age 50.
- Racial Background. For reasons not yet determined, Black people have a greater risk of prostate cancer than do people of other races. In Black people, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced.
- Family History. If a blood relative, such as a parent, sibling, or child, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, your risk may be increased.
- Obesity. People who are obese may have a higher risk of prostate cancer compared with people considered to have a healthy weight, though studies have had mixed results. In obese people, the cancer is more likely to be more aggressive and more likely to return after initial treatment.
What Are The Symptoms Of Prostate Cancer?
Symptoms can sometimes be noticed for the first time when cancer advances. The most common areas for prostate cancer to spread are your bladder, rectum, and bones. It can also spread to your lymph nodes, liver, lungs, and other body tissues.
Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or you’re in treatment, it’s also important to know the signs of advanced cancer.
Here are some symptoms of advanced prostate cancer and how to spot them.
Bladder and Urinary Troubles
One of the common areas for prostate cancer to spread to is the bladder because the two organs are close. This can cause additional problems with urination and bladder function.
Some symptoms your bladder and urethra are being affected by cancer include:
- urinating more frequently
- getting up in the middle of the night to pee
- having blood in your urine or semen
- feeling like you have to urinate often and not
actually passing anything
- not being able to hold your urine (incontinence)
Losing Bowel Control
It’s not as common, but prostate cancer can also spread to your bowel. Cancer first spreads to the rectum, which is the part of your bowel closest to the prostate gland.
Symptoms of cancer that’s spread to the bowels include:
- stomach pain
- blood in your stool
Soreness In The Groin
When prostate cancer spreads, it’s common for cancer cells to go to your lymph nodes and then move to more areas of your body.
There are several lymph nodes in your groin. These are the ones closest to your prostate, so it’s common for cancer to spread to them first. Cancer cells prevent your lymph nodes from draining fluid and working properly. When this happens, your lymph nodes swell. As a result, you might experience pain or soreness in the area.
Hip or Back Pain
One of the most common areas for prostate cancer to spread is to the bones, often your hip and spine since these are closest to your prostate. When cancer reaches your bones, it starts to crowd out healthy bone material. Bones become brittle and can break much easier than they normally would.
Back pain can be a sign of cancer spreading to your bones or the beginning of pressure on your spinal cord. Spinal cord compression happens when cancer is pushing so hard against the spinal cord that the nerves can no longer work properly. This requires medical treatment, and your cancer team might talk to you about a plan ahead of time.
Erectile dysfunction can result from prostate cancer or its treatment, including surgery, radiation, or hormone treatments. Medications, vacuum devices that assist in achieving an erection, and surgery are available to treat erectile dysfunction.
Unexplained Weight Loss
Losing weight without eating less or actively trying to lose weight is a general sign of advanced cancer. This could be combined with some of the other signs above.
Loss of appetite or interest in eating is also a sign cancer has spread to other areas of your body, like your liver.
You can reduce your risk of prostate cancer if you:
- Choose a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and nutrients that can contribute to your health.
- Choose Healthy Foods Over Supplements. No studies have shown that supplements play a role in reducing your risk of prostate cancer. Instead, choose foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals so that you can maintain healthy levels of vitamins in your body.
- Regular Exercise. Exercise improves your overall health, helps you maintain your weight, and improves your mood. Try to exercise most days of the week. If you’re new to exercise, start slow and work your way up to more exercise time each day or seek guidance from an Online Personal Trainer.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight. If your current weight is healthy, work to maintain it by choosing a healthy diet and exercising most days of the week. If you need to lose weight, add more exercise and reduce the number of calories you eat each day. Ask an Online Personal Trainer for help creating a plan for healthy weight loss.
- Talk To Your Doctor About The Increased Risk Of Prostate Cancer. If you have a very high risk of prostate cancer, you and your doctor may consider medications or other treatments to reduce the risk. Some studies suggest that taking 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, including finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) and dutasteride (Avodart), may reduce the overall risk of developing prostate cancer.
Even if your cancer has advanced, there are still a variety of treatment options available. People are able to live longer today than in years past because of advances in medical research. Treatments for advanced prostate cancer focus on managing symptoms and slowing the growth and spread of cancer.