Prostate Cancer Treatment

Prostate cancer is the development of a malignant growth or tumor caused by uncontrolled or abnormal cell division in the tissues of the prostate gland. An estimated 217,730 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2010, and an estimated 32,050 men will die of the disease. It is the second most common cancer among men in the United States, and it most often develops in men older than age 65.

Causes

Although experts have identified risk factors for prostate cancer, the underlying cause of the disease is not known. Like other cancers, prostate cancer is believed to develop in two steps. During step one, the cells are exposed to factors, such as viruses or toxins, that cause or trigger the unusual or uncontrolled cell growth. During step two, other factors such as diet, hormones, and environmental influences promote the growth and development of the abnormal cells.

Certain factors such as age, ethnicity and genetics cannot be influenced however there are a number of lifestyle, nutrition and other factors that can form part of a program to help both prevent prostate cancer and to maximize your recovery and long term wellness in the event you are diagnosed with the disease. Maintaining maximum prostate health is about both reducing your risk factors as well as providing your body with maximum immunity through preventative wellness.

  • Age
    Just being on the planet for 65 years or longer is considered to be the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer. That’s the age group in which more than 60 percent of prostate cancers show up. (American Cancer Society) Since there’s nothing you can do about this risk factor, concentrate on those that you can control such as lifestyle, nutrition and exercise as well as maintaining a positive, stress and toxin free environment as well as other factors.
  • Ethnicity – African-American Men
    Compared with white men, African-American men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer in their early 50s and twice as likely to die of the disease. (American Cancer Society) They are also more likely to be in an advanced stage of the disease when diagnosed. (Winterich 2009) On the other end of the spectrum, Asian-Americans and Hispanic/Latino men are less likely to develop prostate cancer.
  • Family History
    If your father or brother had or has prostate cancer, you are more than twice as likely to develop the disease. Your risk is ever greater if you have more than one close relative with prostate cancer. (American Cancer Society). Research shows that approximately 10% of prostate cancer cases are hereditary.
  • Diet
    Men who typically consume foods that promote inflammation and contain cancer-promoting substances; that is, a high-fat diet, lots of red meat, and one that is low in fiber, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer than men who do not eat these foods. Calcium, dairy and other foods and additives have also been linked to a higher risk of prostate cancer and men whose diets are low in certain nutrients and foods such as lycopene, omega 3, vitamin D, antioxidants and other cancer killers have also been shown to have a higher risk of prostate cancer. In addition, according to the World Health Organization “diet might influence prostate cancer risk by affecting hormone levels.”
  • Exposure to Chemicals
    Studies show that men who work in certain occupations (e.g., tire plant workers, farmers, painters) are more likely to get prostate cancer. This is believed to be related to their exposure to chemicals. A 2009 study, for example, found a two-fold increased risk of prostate cancer among farmers who were exposed to pesticides compared with farmers who were not exposed. (Parent 2009) It’s also been estimated that 90 percent of people in the United States have detectable levels of BPA toxin in their bodies. BPA has been associated with various health problems, including an increased risk of cancer, including prostate cancer.
  • Genetics
    Scientists agree that genetics are responsible for 5 to 10 percent of prostate cancer cases. Among the genes identified as being responsible is one called HPC1 (Hereditary Prostate Cancer Gene 1).
  • Lifestyle and Exercise
    Men who are physically inactive are more likely to develop prostate cancer and other prostate disease. A study published in November 2009 reported that men who regularly engaged in moderate exercise appeared to have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. (Antonelli 2009)
  • Testosterone
    Research indicates that elevated levels of the male hormone testosterone may be a risk factor, as this hormone is part of the process in encouraging prostate growth. However, while testosterone has a major role in prostate cancer, it is an imbalance of hormones—including testosterone—and not the hormone alone that is of the most concern in the development of prostate cancer.
  • Inflammation
    The presence of inflammation as a risk factor is a relatively new theory.
    Inflammation may contribute to the development of prostate cancer by damaging cellular DNA and encouraging normal prostate cells to become cancerous. (American Cancer Society) In fact, an increasing amount of research points to the major role inflammation plays not only in prostate cancer but other serious diseases as well.
  • Obesity
    Most health experts agree that obesity is linked to prostate cancer and can have an impact in several areas, yet they are not sure why this is so. Some possible reasons are that obese men tend to have lower testosterone levels, higher (or relatively so) estrogen levels, elevated levels of insulin-growth factor (which might spur the cancer on), and greater amounts of saturated fats in their diet (which can encourage cancer growth).
  • Dairy, Calcium and Other Food Additives
    Several prestigious research organizations, namely the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, found that consuming too much calcium in foods and/or supplements is a probable risk factor for prostate cancer. (Itsiopoulos 2009).

Symptoms and Severity

Not all men who have prostate cancer experience symptoms, but those who do may have urinary problems that include an inability to pass urine, difficulty starting or stopping the flow of urine, urinary urgency, a weak urinary flow, and pain or burning during urination. Other symptoms may include difficulty having an erection, blood in the urine or semen, and frequent pain in the hips, lower back, or upper thighs.

In the early stages of the disease, prostate cancer does not give you any hint that cancer is brewing. You may have no symptoms at all and cancer may be discovered as a result of a general health check up and routine prostate cancer screening.

Physical symptoms of prostate cancer may include:

  • Strong urge to urinate immediately
  • Difficulty starting the urinary stream
  • A weak urinary stream once it starts
  • Dribbling after you think you’re finished
  • Frequent nighttime urination
  • Pain and/or burning when you urinate
  • Pain in the genital and pelvic area
  • Pain when you ejaculate
  • Frequent urinary tract infections
  • Blood in your urine or semen
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the lower back or abdomen.

Getting Help

During a routine examination Dr. Alarcon will usually complete a thorough medical history and ask questions about your urinary function. He may also have you fill out a form or answer questions based on the International Prostate Symptoms Test or Chronic Prostatitis Although certain answers to these questions can suggest that the prostate is diseased, at this point exactly what the problem is cannot be determined without further testing. These tests include:

  • Digital rectal examination (DRE): This test is the “gold standard” for checking on prostate health. For the DRE, Dr. Alarcon will insert a lubricated finger into the rectum to check for any irregularities in the shape and size of the prostate.
  • PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test: The PSA test is a simple blood test that measures the levels of prostate specific antigen in the bloodstream. The blood level of PSA generally rises when cancer is present however, a high PSA level is not necessarily a sign of prostate cancer because several other factors can cause the level to increase.
  • TRUS: A transrectal prostate ultrasound allows Dr. Alarcon to get a picture of your prostate via an ultrasound probe that is inserted into the rectum. Although the TRUS is not 100 percent reliable as a way to detect prostate tumors, it does find some that escape the DRE. The TRUS can also help Dr. Alarcon to estimate the size of your prostate, which is used to calculate the PSA density. This information helps doctors differentiate between prostate cancer and prostate enlargement. Generally, a PSA density greater than 15 percent suggests (but does not definitively identify) prostate cancer, while a lower density suggests BPH.
  • Prostate Biopsy: The biopsy procedure allows Dr. Alarcon to take small core samples of prostate tissue for examination in a laboratory. If cancer is found, it can be “staged” and “graded” according to a number of factors. More on the prostate biopsy procedure. In some cases, although cancer is not initially found, the laboratory may discover something called PIN which are irregular, but not cancerous cells in the prostate, that some experts believe set the stage for cancer in some men. PIN is graded “high” or “low” depending on the extent of the cellular irregularity.
  • Other Imaging Techniques: Other imaging used to diagnose prostate cancer may include an MRI scan. A MRI uses a magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to produce very clear pictures of internal structures without the use of x-rays. Images from an MRI can provide physicians with information that may not be visualized adequately using x-rays, ultrasound, or computed tomography (CT).