What is prostate cancer?

The prostrate gland is about the size of a walnut.  The gland sits just below the bladder and surrounds the tube through which urine flows.  Its function is to produce part of the fluid in which the sperm is carried.  As with other parts of the body, the prostrate can be affected by cancer.

Symptoms of prostate cancer

Symptoms will generally only occur when the prostrate cancer has already begun to spread outside of the prostrate. An enlarged prostate usually causes difficulty to urinate. This is not necessarily prostate cancer.

Symptoms may include

  • Difficulty starting to urinate or emptying the bladder
  • A weak flow of urine
  • Pain when urinating
  • A need to urinate often, especially at night
  • A sudden urge to urinate
  • Blood in the urine

Once prostate cancer spreads it may cause

  • Sudden unexplained weight loss
  • Bone pain in the lower back or pelvis
  • Loin pain and swelling of lymph nodes
  • Constipation due to large prostate pushing on the rectum
  • No urine being produced due to blocked tubes from the kidneys to the bladder

People with these symptoms should seek medical help immediately!

If you are male and over the age of 40 you are at risk for prostate cancer. In the early stages of prostate cancer there are usually no symptoms, which is why screening is so important.

FAQs on prostate cancer

Advanced age

The risk for prostate cancer begins to rise sharply after the age of 55 and peaks at age 70 – 74.

Race

Black African men are at a much higher risk of getting prostate cancer than are other race groups.

Family history

Men who have a father or brother with prostate cancer are 2-3 times more likely to get prostate cancer.

The earlier the prostate cancer is detected, the better the chances are that the cancer can be cured or the progression of the diseased slowed down or stopped.

Men should consult with their healthcare provider from the age 40 about when they should start screening for prostate cancer. Screening test includes PSA test, a digital rectal examination and/or genetic screening test if you have a family history of prostate cancer.

The PSA test is a blood test that measures the amount of prostate specific antigen in the blood stream. A high PSA score can be due to prostate cancer, an enlarged prostate, an infection of the prostate or even other factors such as cycling or recent ejaculation. This highlights the importance for further investigation for men with a high PSA score. This test is usually done together with a digital rectal examination and remains the first screening test for prostate cancer.

Digital rectal examination

This is a simple test that takes about 30 seconds. Your doctor will insert a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum so that they can feel the prostate for any abnormal lumps, hardening or other signs of prostate cancer.

If your screening is abnormal, your healthcare provider will refer you to a specialist, a urologist. The urologist will do a biopsy to check for cancer cells. This process involves an inserting needle into the prostrate in order to obtain samples of prostate tissue. The sample will then be sent to the laboratory to be examined to determine whether it is cancer.

The results of the biopsy will determine whether you have prostate cancer, what stage the cancer is at and how aggressive it is. Genetic testing may be requested. Your urologist together with a team of oncologist will determine how they will treat your cancer based on all the clinical and laboratory information.

Treatment will depend on the stage of the prostate cancer; how aggressive the cancer is and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Treatment also depends on your age, your general health, personal preferences, and genetic results. Consult your healthcare provider regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the different treatment options available that will give you the best possible outcome.