The prostate is a small gland which is positioned below a man's bladder. The term 'prostate cancer' is used to describe a disease which causes the cells in this gland to multiply uncontrollably, resulting in a malignant tumour. Read on to learn more about this condition.
Symptoms of prostate cancer
Prostate cancer often develops very gradually and does not usually cause symptoms until it is quite advanced. As it progresses, sufferers may find that they experience pain or a burning sensation when they urinate and that they need to urinate more frequently than they normally do. Additionally, they may lose control of their bladder and discover small amounts of blood in their urine.
If a doctor has reason to suspect that a man may have this disease, they will usually carry out a DRE (Digital Rectal Examination); this will allow them to check both the shape and size of the prostate for signs of abnormalities. Following this, they may then take a blood sample; this will be used to measure the patient's levels of prostate specific antigen. High levels of this can, in some cases, indicate the presence of cancer in the prostate.
If the results of these tests suggest that the patient might be suffering from cancer, they will normally be referred to a urologist. This specialist may recommend that the patient gets their prostate biopsied (i.e. have a tiny tissue sample extracted from the gland, so that it can be examined in a lab).
The results of the biopsy, coupled with the aforementioned tests, is usually enough to determine if the person has this form of cancer.
Prostate cancer is often very slow-growing and can take several years to reach an advanced stage. Because of this, in some instances, patients choose to take an approach known as 'watchful waiting'; this involves getting periodic examinations and blood tests, which enable their doctors to monitor the disease.
However, if the condition has been diagnosed at a relatively late stage, surgery may be recommended. Prostate cancer surgery may involve either the total or partial resection of the prostate gland. If the cancer is localised, this operation may be the only treatment that is necessary. However, if the cancer is aggressive and has already begun to spread to other parts of the body, the patient may also need to undergo hormone therapy, radiotherapy and chemotherapy to kill off the rest of the cancer cells.