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Prostate Cancer

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If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer you may have questions and concerns. Many of those questions can be answered here, but each patient has unique needs and challenges. Dr Perez and the Sierra Nevada Cancer Center team are available to you for answers. Make an appointment today and let SNCC help you on your journey back to health.

prostate cancer treatment

What Is the Prostate?

The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland found only in males. It is located in front of the rectum and below the urinary bladder. The function of the prostate is to make a portion of the fluid that protects and provides nutrients to the sperm cells in semen.

More than 2 million men in the US count themselves as prostate cancer survivors.

What Is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer is one of the most commons cancers found in men, it is second only to skin cancer and, according to the American Cancer Society, in 2017 it is estimated that 161,360 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed and 26,730 men will die from prostate cancer. Prostate cancer occurs when prostate cells grow out of control. They can spread and affect nearby organs and can also spread to distant parts of the body and cause problems. The majority of prostate cancers develop from the gland cells located in the prostate. Gland cells create the prostate fluid that is a component of the semen.

Estimated new cases of prostate cancer in the United States in 2017: 161,360 

Prostate cancer is generally slow to develop, and in the early stages it stays in the prostate gland. In some cases, prostate cancer can cause minimal damage and require little to no treatment. In fact in some men it goes undetected. Prostate cancer that is considered aggressive however, spreads quickly. Like most types of cancer, when detected early it stands a better chance of effective treatment.

Medical professionals define the stages of prostate cancer with the Roman numerals I, II, III, and IV. A Stage I cancer is considered early-stage, and a Stage IV cancer is advanced and has spread throughout the body.

Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer generally occurs in older men, it is rarely found in those younger than 40 years old. Most prevalently, it is found in African American men. As is the case with colon and breast cancer, genetics play a role in developing prostate cancer. Approximately 5% to 10% of prostate cancer cases are believed to be caused by inherited genetic factors. 

There are many factors that may increase your risk for developing prostate cancer:

  • Age: Prostate cancer risk goes up as men get older
  • Race: In the US, African-American men are more likely to get prostate cancer and die of it than in men of other races.
  • Geography: Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean, and it is less common in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.
  • Family history: Men with close family members (father or brother) who have had prostate cancer are more likely to get it themselves, especially if their relatives were young when they got it.
  • Gene changes: Some inherited genes seem to raise prostate cancer risk, but they account for only a small fraction of cases.
  • Diet: Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products seem to have a greater chance of getting prostate cancer.
  • Obesity: Some studies have found that obese (very overweight) men may be at greater risk for having more advanced

Age is the strongest factor of all. The chance of having prostate cancer goes up quickly after age 50. About 66 percent of prostate cancers occur in men over the age of 65. Men with a family history of prostate cancer are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, too. This is even more likely if a father or brother had cancer before age 65. It is unclear to researchers as to why, but prostate cancer is more common in African-American men.

Screening Prostate Cancer

The PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test is the standard  test used for prostate cancer screening. The chance of having prostate cancer goes up as the PSA level goes up. Most healthy men have levels under 4 nanograms per milliliter of blood. However, an elevated PSA does not confirm cancer. If one of these tests comes back positive, a man will need a biopsy to confirm prostate cancer. 

Another test that can help find prostate cancer early is when a doctor checks the prostate with his or her finger (a digital rectal exam or DRE). 

Things other than cancer can elevate PSA including; having an enlarged prostate, being older, prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland), ejaculation, riding a bicycle, certain urologic procedures and certain medicines.

Certain conditions can also lower PSA including: certain drugs used to treat BPH or urinary symptoms, herbal mixtures, obesity, aspirin, statins, thiazide diuretics (water pills). 

WHEN TO SCREEN:

  • Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years.
  • Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).
  • Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age).

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer include:

Typically these symptoms only occur in cancers that are advanced.

  • Blood in urine
  • Pain or burning while urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • Weak urination flow
  • Continuous pain in the back, hips, or pelvis

Treatment Options for Prostate Cancer

Detecting prostate cancer early can greatly affect survival rates. Common treatments for prostate cancer include active surveillance, surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and biological therapy. Treatment options are generally used separately although in some cases they may be combined.

When choosing the best treatment option, it is important to take a few considerations into account including your age, health condition, the stage of the prostate cancer, possible side effects, and the most likely outcome of the treatment.

It is estimated that approximately $11.9 billion is spent each year in the United States on prostate cancer treatment.

Prevention of Prostate Cancer

There are some steps you can take to help battle the odds. A healthy diet plays a huge part in general cancer prevention. Eating well before, during, and after cancer treatment is also crucial. Typical foods and supplements used to treat and prevent prostate cancer include soy, pomegranate, green tea, and vitamins D and E.

To reduce your risk of prostate cancer:

  • Starting at age 50, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of testing and decide if testing is the right choice for you.
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit your intake of red meats (beef, pork, or lamb), especially high fat or processed meats (like deli meats, hot dogs, and bacon).
  • Be physically active and stay at a healthy weight. 
  • Talk to a doctor about whether medicine to reduce prostate cancer risk may be right for you.
In the United States, 1 out of 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. The disease is rare before age 40.

8 questions to ask your doctor when deciding on prostate cancer treatment options:

  • What are my treatment options and which do you recommend for me?
  • What are the anticipated benefits of each type of treatment?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment? How can I manage them?
  • What can I do to prepare for treatment?
  • Will I need to stay in the hospital and for what duration?
  • What is the estimated cost of treatment and is it covered by my insurance?
  • How will treatment affect my normal day-to-day activities and body functions?
  • Would you recommend a clinical trial?

Coping with prostate cancer

Dealing with a prostate cancer diagnosis can cause many stressful emotional reactions and thoughts including money, family duties, and future preparations. When you feel like you are having trouble coping, the most crucial action you can take is to seek help in understanding and dealing with your diagnosis. Talk to your doctor, seek individual counseling, or go to a cancer support group. There is power and comfort in knowing you are not alone.

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