Prostate cancer develops when abnormal cells in the prostate grow more quickly than in a normal prostate forming a malignant tumour. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian men with one in six men that will be diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 85. It is estimated that this year there will be 17, 729 new diagnosed cases and of these an estimated 3,500 will die of their disease.
Causes of Prostate Cancer
Some of the causes of prostate cancer are age with chances of being diagnosed rapidly increasing over the age of 50, family history of prostate, breast or ovarian cancer and a diet of high fats and low fresh fruit and vegetables.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
The symptoms of prostate cancer are:
- frequent urination, particularly at night
- pain on urination
- blood in the urine or semen
- a weak stream
- pain in the back or pelvis.
Diagnosing Prostate Cancer
The most commonly used test to screen for prostate cancer is prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. This however is not a diagnostic test as it can only detect changes in the prostate. It is important to note however that only one in three men with an elevated PSA result will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, as levels can be variable. As such a doctor will normally want to test more than once over a period of time to determine your risk of prostate cancer. Due to the variable nature of the results, it is common that the PSA test is often carried out with other tests in order to diagnose protest cancer.
A biopsy is used to diagnose prostate cancer. This involves the removal of small pieces of tissue from different parts of the prostate with the aid of a rectal ultrasound. These small pieces will then be examined to determine the presence of the disease and its aggressiveness.
If prostate cancer is detected, other tests like an MRI, CT or bone scans may also be carried out to determine whether or not the cancer is contained to the prostate or if it has spread which will then help to decide the treatment options available.
Treating prostate cancer
The treatment plan for prostate cancer depends on the extent of the cancer. Firstly the cancer will be staged from I to IV depending on the severity and treatment options will be determined from there. Some of the treatment options include:
- Active Surveillance
If the cancer is considered to be low risk and not causing any symptoms then active surveillance may be used. This involves regular PSA tests examinations and imaging.
- Watchful Waiting
Similar to active surveillance this treatment option with regular PSA tests and check-ups. It is only suitable if it is determined that the cancer is very unlikely to cause problems in your lifetime.
This treatment option is used with curative intent. It involves the removal of the whole prostate and can result in incontinence or impotence.
Also used with curative intent, radiotherapy involves either external radiation or by implanting radioactive seeds with side-effects being similar to surgery as well as possible bowel problems.
- Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT)
Prostate cancer needs testosterone to grow so a possible treatment option is ADT which slows the production of testosterone. It is often used before, during and after radiotherapy. In prostate cancer which has spread beyond the prostate it may be the only treatment used initially.
Chemotherapy used to be used only when prostate cancer had become resistant to ADT. In certain situations it is now used much earlier alongside ADT as it has been shown to lengthen survival.
WHERE TO GET FURTHER ADVICE
If you have concerns about symptoms you are experiencing, consider speaking to your GP for a referral to see one of our qualified Oncologists at Hunter Valley Oncology.
Our holistic Oncology service fulfils the needs of patients in Maitland, Newcastle NSW and surrounds. To make an appointment, please call (02) 4941 8424 or (02) 4942 2600 or use our online contact form.