What is prostate cancer?
Find out what prostate cancer is and how doctors diagnose and treat it today.
Most types of prostate cancer, adenocarcinoma, start in the gland cells, which produce semen. While these are common, rarer types include small cell carcinoma, transitional cell carcinoma, and sarcoma.
When cancer first sets in, it may not have any symptoms. As it progresses, you might develop some or all of the following signs:
Doctors believe there is no single cause for cancer. Genetics has a part to play in cancer development, as does diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Exposure to certain chemicals, radiation, and tobacco products are other possible causes of cancer.
Diagnosis for prostate cancer
Doctors use several tests to determine if you have prostate cancer. Most people with prostate cancer are initially identified by a digital rectal exam or by a blood test that screens for prostate-specific antigens (PSA).
If doctors find a high PSA level or notice something during the rectal exam, they will order a biopsy to test a tissue sample. They will usually gather a tissue sample with a needle that they insert into the prostate. Doctors also use imaging such as an ultrasound or MRI to look at the prostate.
Treatments for prostate cancer
If you’ve received a diagnosis for prostate cancer, the doctors have several options to treat it. Doctors choose from the following treatments:
The type of treatment your doctor decides upon depends on the stage of cancer you are in. Your best treatment options for a less aggressive stage (stage one or two) might be just waiting, while stage four might require all methods.
Your doctor might prescribe one of the many available medications for your prostate cancer, depending on their diagnosis. There are around 24 medications your doctor can choose from. A few of them are:
- Bicalutamide (Casodex)
- Leuprolide acetate (Eligard)
- Apalutamide (Erleada)
Researchers are continuously coming up with and testing new types of treatment for prostate cancer. Some of the newer treatments are:
- Proton beam radiation therapy
- Photodynamic therapy
- High-intensity-focused ultrasound therapy
Possible complications and side effects
Depending on your course of treatments, there are possible side effects. Talk to your doctor to weigh the risks against the severity of your prostate cancer. Chemotherapy or radiation can damage normal cells and cause side effects like:
If you get surgery, you could develop trouble controlling your urine, or incontinence. It may take you a little time to get back bladder control, but incontinence will happen less often with time. Talk with your doctor about special exercises to help stop the problem completely.
Many people also feel mentally worn down while managing their cancer, leading to high stress and depression. The best way to try to avoid this is to talk with your family and friends about how you’re feeling at every step of the way and establish a support group to help you cope. A counselor can also help you with this.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Cedars-Sinai: “Prostate Cancer.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Prostate Cancer Statistics.”
InformedHealth.org: “How does the prostate work?”
National Cancer Institute: "Cancer Stat Facts: Prostate Cancer."
National Cancer Institute: “Drugs Approved for Prostate Cancer.”
National Cancer Institute: “Prostate Cancer Treatment (PDQ)-Patient Version.”
National Cancer Institute: “Risk Factors for Cancer.”