Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate — a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. 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 are aggressive and can spread quickly. Prostate cancer that's detected early — when it's still confined to the prostate gland — has a better chance of successful treatment.
Researchers have found several factors that might affect a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer.
Age, Ethnicity/Race, Geographical area, Family History and Genetic Factors play role in development of prostate cancer. Other less associated factors linked are diet, obesity, and alcohol consumption, exposure to chemicals or sexually transmitted disease.
Data from national cancer registries shows that incidence of certain cancers are on rise in India. Data available from various cancer registries and observed that the average annual cancer incidence rate for prostate cancer in India ranged 5.0-9.1 per 100,000/year, Prostate is the second leading site of cancer among males in large Indian cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Pune and Thiruvananthapuram, third leading site of cancer in cities like Bangalore and Mumbai and it is among the top ten leading sites of cancers in the rest of the population based cancer registries (PBCRs) of India.
Prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages.Prostate cancer that's more advanced 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
- Erectile dysfunction
If a Digital Rectal Examination or Serum PSA test detects an abnormality, your doctor may recommend further tests to determine whether you have prostate cancer, such as:
- Ultrasound. If other tests raise concerns, your doctor may use transrectal ultrasound to further evaluate your prostate. A small probe, about the size and shape of a cigar, is inserted into your rectum. The probe uses sound waves to create a picture of your prostate gland.
- Collecting a sample of prostate tissue. If initial test results suggest prostate cancer, your doctor may recommend a procedure to collect a sample of cells from your prostate (prostate biopsy). Prostate biopsy is often done using a thin needle that's inserted into the prostate to collect tissue. The tissue sample is analyzed in a lab to determine whether cancer cells are present.
- MRI fusion. While still being developed worldwide, MRI fusion to assist in prostate biopsy and diagnosis is being used more and more.
Once a prostate cancer diagnosis has been made, your doctor works to determine the extent (stage) of the cancer. If your doctor suspects your cancer may have spread beyond your prostate, one or more of the following imaging tests may be recommended:
- Bone scan
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan/ Prostate-Specific Membrane (PSMA) Scan
After all investigations are done, review of all reports will help patient to be categorized as Low Risk, Intermediate Risk and High Risk and the treatment will depend on these risk stratification.
Immediate treatment may not be necessary
For men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer, treatment may not be necessary right away. Some men may never need treatment. Instead, doctors sometimes recommend active surveillance.
In active surveillance, regular follow-up blood tests, rectal exams and possibly biopsies may be performed to monitor progression of your cancer. If tests show your cancer is progressing, you may opt for a prostate cancer treatment such as surgery or radiation.
Active surveillance may be an option for cancer that isn't causing symptoms, is expected to grow very slowly and is confined to a small area of the prostate. Active surveillance may also be considered for someone who has another serious health condition or who is of an advanced age that makes cancer treatment more difficult.
Active surveillance carries a risk that the cancer may grow and spread between checkups, making the cancer less likely to be cured.
Surgery to remove the prostate
Surgery for prostate cancer involves removing the prostate gland (radical prostatectomy), some surrounding tissue and a few lymph nodes. Radical prostatectomy can be performed in several ways:
- Using a robot to assist with surgery. During robot-assisted surgery, the instruments are attached to a mechanical device (robot) and inserted into your abdomen through several small incisions. The surgeon sits at a console and uses hand controls to guide the robot to move the instruments. Robotic prostatectomy may allow the surgeon to make more-precise movements with surgical tools than is possible with traditional minimally invasive surgery.
- Making an incision in your abdomen. During retropubic surgery, the prostate gland is taken out through an incision in your lower abdomen.
Discuss with your doctor which type of surgery is best for your specific situation.
Radical prostatectomy carries a risk of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Ask your doctor to explain the risks you may face based on your situation, the type of procedure you select, your age, your body type and your overall health.
Radiation therapy uses high-powered energy to kill cancer cells. Prostate cancer radiation therapy can be delivered in two ways:
- Radiation that comes from outside of your body (external beam radiation). During external beam radiation therapy, you lie on a table while a machine moves around your body, directing high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to your prostate cancer. You typically undergo external beam radiation treatments five days a week for several weeks (6-7). Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) can be used for early stage low volume disease where treatment can be done in just 1-2 weeks. It’s a very specialised, focused and very precise form of Radiation therapy
- Radiation placed inside your body (brachytherapy). Brachytherapy involves placing many rice-sized radioactive seeds in your prostate tissue. The radioactive seeds deliver a low dose of radiation over a long period of time. Your doctor implants the radioactive seeds in your prostate using a needle guided by ultrasound images. The implanted seeds eventually stop emitting radiation and don't need to be removed.
Side effects of radiation therapy can include painful, frequent or urgent urination, as well as rectal symptoms such as loose stools or pain when passing stools. Erectile dysfunction can also occur.
Hormone therapy is treatment to stop your body from producing the male hormone testosterone. Prostate cancer cells rely on testosterone to help them grow. Cutting off the supply of testosterone may cause cancer cells to die or to grow more slowly.
Hormone therapy options include:
- Medications that stop your body from producing testosterone. Medications known as luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LH-RH) agonists prevent the testicles from receiving messages to make testosterone. Drugs typically used in this type of hormone therapy include leuprolide (Lupron, Eligard), goserelin (Zoladex), triptorelin (Trelstar) and histrelin (Vantas). Other drugs sometimes used include ketoconazole and abiraterone (Zytiga).
- Medications that block testosterone from reaching cancer cells. Medications known as anti-androgens prevent testosterone from reaching your cancer cells. Examples include bicalutamide (Casodex), nilutamide (Nilandron) and flutamide. The drug enzalutamide (Xtandi) may be an option when other hormone therapies are no longer effective.
- Surgery to remove the testicles (orchiectomy). Removing your testicles reduces testosterone levels in your body.
Hormone therapy is used in men with advanced prostate cancer to shrink the cancer and slow the growth of tumors. In men with early-stage prostate cancer, hormone therapy may be used to shrink tumors before radiation therapy, which can increase the likelihood that radiation therapy will be successful. Side effects of hormone therapy may include erectile dysfunction, hot flashes, loss of bone mass, reduced sex drive and weight gain.
Freezing prostate tissue
Cryosurgery or cryoablation involves freezing tissue to kill cancer cells.Cryosurgery is more frequently used as a salvage therapy for men who haven't been helped by radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill rapidly growing cells, including cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be administered through a vein in your arm, in pill form or both.
Chemotherapy may be a treatment option for men with prostate cancer that has spread to remote body locations. Chemotherapy may also be an option for cancers that don't respond to hormone therapy.
Overall prognosis of prostate cancer is good. The 5-year survival rate for most men with local or regional prostate cancer is nearly 100%. For men diagnosed with prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 31%. The 10-year survival rate for local, regional, and distant prostate cancer combined is 98%
Whether to test healthy men with no symptoms for prostate cancer is controversial. Medical organizations don't agree on the issue of screening and whether it delivers benefits.
Some medical organizations recommend men consider prostate cancer screening in their 50s, or sooner for men who have risk factors for prostate cancer.
Discuss your particular situation and the benefits and risks of screening with your doctor. Together, you can decide whether prostate cancer screening is right for you.
Prostate screening tests might include:
- Digital rectal exam (DRE)
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
PSA testing combined with DRE helps identify prostate cancers at their earliest stages. Hence, debate continues surrounding prostate cancer screening.