What is Prostate Cancer?

 

Prostate Cancer SymptomsCommon Symptoms - How is Your Waterworks?
While not exhaustive, the following list details some common symptoms associated with a disordered prostate:

  • difficulty in starting to urinate
  • blood in the urine or semen
  • discomfort when urinating
  • a slow flow of urine that is difficult to stop, & a
  • decreased libido.

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms please make a date with your GP.

While these symptoms can all be signs of other disorders like Prostatitis, prostate cancer is the only prostate-related disease that can be life-threatening. Men should be tested for it regularly from age 50 onwards, and age 40 onwards if they have a family history of the disease.

What is the prostate?
The prostate is a male organ that is part of the urinary and reproductive systems. It is found below the bladder and in front of the bowel, and is a walnut shape, with two semi-circular lobes that encircle the urethra. The prostate is surrounded by layers of smooth muscle, and is composed of thousands of small fluid-producing glands interspersed within its blood vessels.

What is the function of the prostate gland?
The main function of the prostate is to produce a seminal fluid that protects and enhances sperm, aiding the sperm's survival in the reproductive track to a female's egg. The prostate also functions to control urine flow and ejaculations, via contractions of its smooth muscle layers.

Prostate Disorders
There are three main prostate disorders:
1. Prostate Cancer
2. Prostatitis
3. Benign Prostate Hyperplasia


Prostate Cancer

What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer occurs when some of the prostate cells reproduce more rapidly than is normal, resulting in swelling or a tumour. Prostate cancer cells eventually invade other parts of the body, usually the bones and lymph nodes, producing secondary tumours ('metastasis'). Treatment is still possible once the cancer escapes the prostate, but currently there is no cure. It can be a slow-growing cancer, and tends to be more aggressive in younger men.

How prevalent is prostate cancer?
Annually, 3000 men in Australia will die from prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is a leading cause of cancer incidence and the second leading cause of cancer mortality in Australian men. Early detection and treatment is essential for a good prognosis. Since this disease mainly affects men in their early fifties, its incidence is expected to increase significantly over time as a result of Australia's ageing population. Evidence indicates that the economic and social burden of prostate cancer will rise extensively, unless there are significant scientific breakthroughs that are translated into alterations in clinical management.

What is involved in the diagnosis for prostate cancer?
Diagnosing prostate cancer includes digital rectal examinations of the prostate and testing for elevated levels of a protein called Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). If either of these tests is abnormal, then a biopsy of the prostate will be performed. This biopsy is used to determine how aggressive the tumour is and what type of treatment is appropriate.

In countries with aggressive screening practices, approximately one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes, although autopsy studies indicate an even higher rate of prostate cancer in the population. Screening is heavily reliant on the use of the serum test for PSA, which is prone to false positives, and thereby needs to be used in conjunction with a Digital Rectal Exam and biopsy. The prostate can be sampled for the presence of cancer by needle biopsy under ultrasound or CT guidance, but many cancers are missed by biopsy. For those cancers found, management is complicated by the fact that prostate tumours appear multi-focal within the gland and have markedly variable biology. Some tumours are almost completely inactive and would require no therapy, whilst others are rapidly growing or metastatic and are thereby life-threatening. Hence, this is why better biomarkers are needed to help stratify the disease into the different types, and to find the most appropriate treatment.

Useful Prostate Cancer Guides & Websites

Advanced Prostate Cancer: a guide for men and their families

What You Need To Know About Prostate Cancer

Understanding Prostate Cancer.

www.australianprostatecentre.org

References

Australian Prostate Centre http://www.australianprostatecentre.org/get-involved/prostate-cancer-information