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Everything You Need to Know About Prostate Cancer

Comprehensive insights into prostate cancer, from risk factors to treatment options.

  • 12 Sep 2023
  • 5 min read

Prostate cancer is a serious health issue for men, yet it's one that often goes under the radar. While this condition doesn't get the same attention in conversations as other diseases, it affects many men every year and should not be overlooked. To make sure you stay informed, this article will take you through exactly what you need to know about prostate cancer, its causes, diagnosis, and treatment options. From taking preventative measures to staying informed on screenings and treatment options – no stone shall remain unturned as we explore why paying attention to our prostates matters now more than ever before.

What is Prostate cancer?

Let’s first dive into what is prostate cancer. It is a type of cancer that affects the prostate gland, which is a small, walnut-shaped gland located just below the bladder in men. This gland is crucial in producing seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. When cells in your prostate gland start to grow uncontrollably, they can form a tumour and potentially spread to other parts of the body. While early-stage prostate cancer might not show noticeable symptoms, routine screenings and awareness are essential for early detection and effective treatment. It's one of the most common cancers in men, but with advancements in medical care, the outlook is positive, especially when caught in its early stages.


Symptoms of Prostate cancer

Are you wondering “What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?” Prostate cancer often develops without causing obvious symptoms in its early stages, making detection challenging. However, as the cancer progresses, certain signs may emerge. These can include:
● Difficulty in starting or maintaining urination
● Frequent urge to urinate (especially at night)
● Weak urine stream
● Blood in the urine or semen
● Painful urination or ejaculation
● Discomfort in the back, hips, or pelvis

In advanced stages, individuals might experience:
● Bone pain
● Unexplained weight loss
● Fatigue

While these symptoms can also indicate other conditions, it's crucial not to dismiss them. Regular check-ups and screenings, especially for those at higher risk, can help catch prostate cancer early when it's more treatable.

Causes and risk factors of Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is a disease with no definite preventable causes. However, the chances of its development are influenced by various factors or conditions. So, if you’re wondering what causes prostate cancer, here are a few factors that play a major role in this condition.

1. Age: The older you are, the more chances you've got of developing prostate cancer. It tends to affect individuals at the age of 50 and above.

2. Family history: If a close relative, like your dad or brother, has had prostate cancer, your chances of having it increase.

3. Genetics: Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can lead to prostate cancer development.

4. Lynch Syndrome: Lynch syndrome, a rare genetic condition, is linked to mutations in genes like MLH1 and MLH2. People affected by this syndrome face a higher chance of developing various forms of cancer, including prostate cancer.

5. Lifestyle: Your lifestyle habits also have a major say in your chances of developing prostate cancer. If your diet is loaded with saturated fats, and lacks fruits and veggies, your risk increases all the more. The same goes for the lack of physical activity. Lack of exercise elevates your risk of developing the disease.

6. Hormone levels: Hormones, which are naturally produced by our body's various organs, play a crucial role in regulating essential functions. One such hormone, Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), specifically controls normal cell growth. Recent research has shown a correlation between elevated levels of IGF-1 and the increased likelihood of developing prostate cancer.

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Stages of Prostate Cancer

Let's break down the stages of prostate cancer, which decides the course of treatment and its rate of success. A common method doctors use to assess stages is by assessing Prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. This is a protein made by the prostate, high levels of which indicate prostate cancer. Let’s discuss the four main stages of prostate cancer:

1. Stage I: At this early stage, the cancerous cells are confined to the prostate gland and haven’t moved to other parts. PSA levels are low at this stage.

2. Stage II: Here, the cancer's still in the prostate, but your PSA levels might be a bit more elevated.

3. Stage III: The tumour starts growing, and the cancer might start invading nearby tissues. PSA levels are now elevated, which indicates an advanced cancer form.

4. Stage IV: The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, like the lymph nodes, or even the bones. Most men with stage 4 prostate cancer cannot be cured, even though treatments may help to slow down or shrink the cancer.


How is Prostate cancer diagnosed?

Here are a few tests and processes that doctors use to diagnose prostate cancer:
● PSA Test
Your doctor most likely will start by running a PSA blood test. Higher levels of protein could indicate an issue.
● Rectal Exam
The doctor checks your prostate's size, shape, and any abnormalities by gently inserting a gloved finger into your rectum.
● Biopsy
A small piece of your prostate tissue is sampled and examined under a microscope for cancer cells.
● Imaging Tests
X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans provide detailed images to check whether the cancer has spread outside the prostate.
● Gleason Score
This helps rate how aggressive the cancer is. A low score means it's less likely to spread, while a higher score indicates a more aggressive nature.
● Staging
Doctors decide on the stage (I to IV) to determine how much the cancer has spread.

How is Prostate cancer treated?

When it comes to prostate cancer treatment, a range of treatment options exists, each tailored to the specific needs of the individual. Here's a closer look at these approaches.

1. Radical prostatectomy: Radical prostatectomy involves removing the entire prostate gland. Doctors may do it through traditional open surgery or minimally invasive techniques like laparoscopic or robotic-assisted surgery, often resulting in shorter recovery times.

2. Radiation Therapy: Radiation Therapy is a method that employs high-energy rays to target and destroy cancer cells. External beam radiation therapy directs radiation from outside the body towards the cancer. On the other hand, brachytherapy involves implanting tiny radioactive seeds or capsules directly into the prostate.

3. Hormone therapy: Prostate cancer cells often rely on male hormones like testosterone for growth. Hormone therapy aims to block the effects of these hormones or reduce their production, thereby slowing down the cancer's progression.

4. Chemotherapy: When cancer spreads beyond the prostate, doctors turn to chemotherapy. It involves using drugs to target rapidly growing cancer cells. Although it can have serious side effects, it's an important method when dealing with advanced cases.

5. Immunotherapy: This is an innovative approach to strengthening the body's immune system to fight cancer cells. It works by boosting the patient's immune response to identify and destroy cancer cells in the body more effectively.

Your doctor will create your treatment plan based on many factors, like your preferences, the stage of the cancer, and your overall health. It's crucial to have open and honest conversations with your medical team to determine the best course of action. Remember, you're not alone on this journey – your healthcare providers are there to guide you every step of the way.


Outlook towards Prostate cancer

While prostate cancer can be a scary thing, the good news is that with early detection and advances in medical science, the prognosis for many people affected by prostate cancer is quite positive. Most cases are detected early and can be effectively treated, leading to long and fulfilling lives post-treatment.

Dealing with cancer, including its diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care, can be emotionally and financially challenging. But here's where health insurance steps in as a safety net. Health insurance, especially critical illness insurance, can provide the necessary financial support to cover the costs of various treatments, medications, hospital stays, and even regular check-ups.

When considering health insurance, make sure to review the policy details, coverage limits, and any specific provisions related to cancer care. This way, you can ensure that you're properly protected and have peace of mind knowing your health and well-being are safeguarded.

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