Worldwide, Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer and the sixth leading cause of cancer death among men. Cancer of the prostate has become a major health problem in industrialized world and the same is being reflected in India as its economy grows possibly due to changed lifestyles or increased migration of the rural section to the urban.
It is said if the current trend continues this cancer will become a far greater public health problem in the future. Delhi Cancer registry shows cancer of the prostate is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer among men in Delhi accounting for about 6.78% of all malignancies.
What and where is the prostate gland?
This is a funnel shaped gland weighing about 30 grams in an adult male. It surrounds the junction of urinary bladder to urethra. It has an outer and inner zone. Cancers mainly arise from the outer zone whereas enlargements occur mainly in the inner zone.
Role of prostate gland
Not known for sure but the prostatic secretions add to the sperm so appear to be nutritional to the same.
Diseases of prostate gland
- Benign Prostate Hyperplasia
Commonest is an enlargement called prostatic hypertrophy. The gland steadily enlarges in men after 40 years and in most the problem gets problematic when this gland begins to obstruct the passage of urine! It is increases to the sizeof a walnut at 40yrs and to a lemon size by 60 years. Benign prostatic hyperplasia is the commonest urologic disorder in men.
Symptoms of BPH
- Trouble starting a urine stream or making more than a dribble
- Passing urine often, especially at night
- Feeling that the bladder has not fully emptied
- A strong or sudden urge to pass urine
- Weak or slow urine stream
- Stopping and starting again several times while passing urine
- Pushing or straining to begin passing urine
Neglect of enlarged gland can eventually lead to obstruction of urine (may need cathetrization) and even renal failure as the obstruction increases.
Treatment is medical (decreases size of gland and relaxes the urinary bladder sphincter to relieve obstruction) and surgical (removal of chips of prostate gland –TURP- in order to decrease obstruction, even lasers maybe used). These are provided by the urologist. The tissue removed at surgery MUST be examined by a pathologist to check if there is any cancer in the tissue removed although possibility of the same are usually remote.
Conservative with watchful waiting
Maybe resorted to if symptoms are not bothersome. Should carry out annual checks.
It is bacterial/ fungal/ tuberculous infection of the gland and is usually associated with urinary tract infection. This condition is treated medically by antibiotics by a urologist.
Symptoms of prostatitis
- Trouble passing urine
- A burning or stinging feeling or pain when passing urine
- Strong, frequent urge to pass urine, even when there is only a small amount of urine
- Chills and high fever
- Low back pain or body aches
- Pain low in the belly, groin, or behind the scrotum
- Rectal pressure or pain
- Urethral discharge with bowel movements
- Genital and rectal throbbing
- Sexual problems and loss of sex drive
- Painful ejaculation (sexual climax)
Tests such as `digital rectal exam’(DRE) and a urine test, can be done to see if you have prostatitis. Correct diagnosis of your exact type of prostatitis is key to getting the best treatment.
3. Cancer of the Prostate
Although cancer of prostate is rising, this cancer has an excellent 5 yr survival rates if on treatment.
Prostate cancer means that the glands begin to proliferate and infiterate the stroma of the gland; eventually could lead to spread beyond the gland especially the lower spine.
Of note is that Prostate cancer tends to grow slowly as compared to other cancers. Cell changes may begin 10, 20, or even 30 years before a tumor gets big enough to cause symptoms. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer may already be advanced.
By age 50, very few men have symptoms of prostate cancer, yet some precancerous or cancer cells may be present. More than 50 % of men in some countries especially America have cancer in their prostate by 80 years. We do not have the figures for India. In India most men suffer from other diseases and succumb to them before the prostate lesion is identified!
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
- Trouble passing urine
- Frequent urge to pass urine, especially at night
- Weak or interrupted urine stream
- Pain or burning when passing urine
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Painful ejaculation
- Nagging pain in the back, hips, or pelvis
Prostate cancer spreads most commonly to bones especially lower spine. Therefore back pain inolder men needs to be taken seriously.
Risk Factors For Prostate Cancer
- Age. Men older than 50 yrs.
- Family history. Men whose fathers or brothers have had prostate cancer have a 2 to 3 times higher risk of prostate cancer than men who do not have a family history of the disease. Prostate cancer risk also appears to be slightly higher for men from families with a history of breast cancer.
- Diet. The risk of prostate cancer may be higher for men who eat high-fat diets.
Screening for Prostate Cancer
Screening means testing for cancer before you have any symptoms. A screening test may help find cancer at an early stage, when it is less likely to have spread and may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer may have started to spread.
The most useful screening tests are those that have been proven to lower a person’s risk of dying from cancer. Doctors do not yet know whether prostate cancer screening lowers the risk of dying from prostate cancer. Therefore, large research studies, with thousands of men, are now going on to study prostate cancer screening. The National Cancer Institute is studying the combination of PSA testing and DRE as a way to get more accurate results.
Talk with your doctor about your risk of prostate cancer and your need for screening tests.
Most prostate cancers grow slowly and don’t cause any health problems in men who have them. If you decide not to get screened, you can always change your mind later. If you decide to get screened, it does not mean you have to go to the next step. You should discuss each step with your doctor. Most prostate cancers found by screening are small and slow growing and may not be fatal. Some men may have a faster growing prostate cancer and will benefit from early treatment. Older men, African-American men, and men who have a family history of prostate cancer have a greater risk for developing prostate cancer. If you are concerned that you may have a greater risk for prostate cancer, talk to your doctor about screening.
Tests Used to Check the Prostate
Screening for Prostate Cancer
One screening test for prostate cancer is a blood test, which can be abnormal (not normal) for several reasons besides prostate cancer. It is looking for levels of Prostate Specific antigen (PSA). The only way to know if an abnormal test is due to cancer is to do a biopsy. A biopsy is a minor surgery to get small pieces of the prostate to look at under a microscope. If the biopsy shows there are cancer cells, then your doctor will discuss treatment options.
Treatment of prostate cancer may include:
- Close monitoring and follow-up visits.
- Surgery to remove the prostate.
Side effects from radiation or surgery could happen and these are
– Loss of bladder control
– Problems with your rectum.
The first step is to talk to your doc about your prostate concerns. Symptoms like pain, fever, or trouble passing urine need to be looked for. Your own personal medical history including medications should be provided to the doc. You may be asked to give a urine sample for testing.
The Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
DRE is a standard way to check the prostate. With a gloved and lubricated finger, your doctor feels the prostate from the rectum. The test lasts about 10-15 seconds.
This exam checks for:
- The size, firmness, and texture of the prostate
- Any hard areas, lumps, or growth spreading beyond the prostate, and
- Any pain caused by touching or pressing the prostate
The DRE allows the doctor to feel only one side of the prostate. A PSA test is another way to help your doctor check the health of your prostate.
PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) Test
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the PSA test along with a DRE to help detect prostate cancer in men age 50 and older. PSA is a protein made by prostate cells. It is normally secreted into ducts in the prostate, where it helps make semen, but sometimes it leaks into the blood. In prostate cancer, more PSA gets into the blood than is normal. Please remember, a high PSA blood level is not proof of cancer, and many other things can cause a false-positive test result. Blood PSA levels are often increased in men with prostatitis or BPH. Even things that disturb the prostate gland–such as riding a bicycle or motorcycle, or having a DRE, an orgasm within the past 24 hours, a prostate biopsy, or prostate surgery–may increase PSA levels.
PSA tests are often used to follow men after prostate cancer treatment to check for signs of cancer recurrence.
man has a high PSA level. For now, men and their doctors use PSA readings over time as a guide to see if more follow-up is needed.
PSA test results
PSA levels are measured in terms of the amount of PSA per volume of fluid tested. Doctors often use a value of 4 nanograms (ng) or higher per milliliter of blood as a sign that further tests, such as a prostate biopsy, are needed. Your doctor may monitor your PSA velocity, which means the rate of change in your PSA level over time. Rapid increases in PSA readings may suggest cancer. If you have a mildly elevated PSA level, you and your doctor may choose to do PSA tests on a scheduled basis and watch for any change in the PSA velocity.
Free PSA test
This test is used for men who have higher PSA levels. The standard PSA test measures total PSA, which includes both PSA that is attached, or bound, to other proteins and PSA that is free, or not bound. The free PSA test measures free PSA only. Free PSA is linked to benign prostate conditions, such as BPH, whereas bound PSA is linked to cancer. The percentage of free PSA can help tell what kind of prostate problem you have.
- If both total PSA and free PSA are higher than normal (high percentage of free PSA), this suggests BPH rather than cancer.
- If total PSA is high but free PSA is not (low percentage of free PSA), cancer is more likely. More testing, such as a biopsy, should be done.
You and your doctor should talk about your personal risk and free PSA results. Then you can decide together whether to have follow-up biopsies and, if so, how often.
If your symptoms or test results suggest prostate cancer, your doctor will refer you to a specialist (a urologist) for a prostate biopsy. For a biopsy, small tissue samples are taken directly from the prostate. Your doctor will take samples from several areas of the prostate gland. This can help lower the chance of missing any areas of the gland that may have cancer cells. Like other cancers, prostate cancer can be diagnosed only by looking at tissue under a microscope.
A positive test result after a biopsy means prostate cancer is present. A pathologist will check your biopsy sample for cancer cells and will give it a Gleason score. The Gleason score ranges from 2 to 10 and describes how likely it is that a tumor will spread. The lower the number, the less aggressive the tumor is and the less likely it will spread. Treatment options depend on the stage (or extent) of the cancer (stages range from 1 to 4), Gleason score, PSA level, and your age and general health. This information will be available from your doctor and is listed on your pathology report.