Prostate cancer is a cancerous tumor in the prostate gland, a small walnut-sized gland in men that makes seminal fluid, which helps carry sperm out of the body. The prostate is located beneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine out through the penis. Prostate tumors can be benign or cancerous. With benign tumors, the prostate enlarges and squeezes the urethra, interrupting the normal flow of urine. This condition, benign prostate hyperplasia, is common and rarely life threatening. Prostate cancer -- one of the most common kinds of cancer in men -- can spread beyond the prostate gland and be life threatening.
Prostate cancer is the third most common cause of cancer deaths in men of all ages and is the most common cause of death from cancer in men over 75 years old. Men younger than 40 rarely have prostate cancer. Men at higher risk include African-American men older than 60, farmers, tire plant workers, painters, and men exposed to cadmium. The lowest number of cases occurs in Japanese men and vegetarians.
However, most cancerous tumors in the prostate tend to grow slowly and either do not spread or cause harm for decades. When caught early, prostate cancer can be treated successfully in more than 90% of cases. Men 50 years old and older should talk to their doctors about being screened for prostate cancer.
Many people with prostate cancer have no symptoms at all, especially in the early stages.
Some symptoms that may indicate prostate cancer include:
When the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, symptoms can include:
The cause of prostate cancer is unknown, although it's likely that several factors, including genetics, diet, ethnicity, hormones, and your environment, may play a part.
Some studies have shown a relationship between a high-fat diet and higher testosterone levels, which stimulate growth of the prostate. Some doctors think that testosterone replacement therapy might make existing prostate cancer grow faster, and men who use testosterone therapy may be more likely to develop prostate cancer than those with lower levels of the hormone. Genes may come into play because prostate cancer tends to happen in men who are related to one another (see "Risk Factors" section). In addition, researchers have found a gene that is associated with 30% of family-related prostate cancers.
Asian men tend to have a lower incidence of prostate cancer, while African-American men have one of the highest incidence rates in the world.
The following factors may increase a man's risk for prostate cancer:
The American Cancer Society recommends that men talk with their doctors about screening tests for prostate cancer starting at age 50, or age 45 for African-American men or men with a brother or father who had prostate cancer. Two standard tests are used for early detection of prostate cancer:
If either the DRE or PSA test suggests that cancer might be present, your doctor may recommend the following tests:
If the biopsy shows the presence of cancer, you may need more tests to see if the cancer has spread:
The American Cancer Society suggests men talk with their doctors about the benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening. While the PSA test and the DRE can find cancers early on, they usually can' t determine how dangerous the cancer is. Some prostate cancers may grow very slowly, while others are aggressive. Currently doctors can' t be sure who needs treatment and who does not, meaning that some men who may not need treatment may get it. Prostate cancer treatments can have unwanted side effects, such as impotence and incontinence.
Studies also suggest that the following lifestyle changes may help reduce your risk of prostate cancer:
There are several options for treating prostate cancer, depending on how fast the cancer is growing, whether it has spread, how old you are, and the benefits and drawbacks to treatment.
If prostate cancer is detected early, treatment usually involves either surgical removal of the prostate or radiation therapy. For more advanced cases of prostate cancer, or if cancer spreads beyond the prostate, hormone medications may be used.
In some cases, if you have only a slow-growing tumor, the doctor may suggest "watchful waiting." Watchful waiting involves closely monitoring the situation and giving treatment only if the man's condition worsens.
Making changes in your diet and considering certain herbs and supplements as supportive therapy may also help either reduce risk of prostate cancer or make treatment more effective. If you have prostate cancer, you should not use herbs or supplements without your doctor's supervision.
Acupuncture can relieve pain and the side effects of surgery. Meditation and massage may reduce stress and anxiety associated with having prostate cancer.
Hormone therapy or chemotherapy may be used to stop the growth of cancer cells in the prostate. Sometimes medications are used in conjunction with surgery or radiation, or may be used prior to surgery or radiation to shrink large tumors. Generally they are used when prostate cancer has spread.
Hormone therapy lowers the body's production of testosterone or blocks its action in the body. Lowering testosterone levels can cause tumors to shrink or slow their growth. It is usually reserved for men whose prostate cancer has spread. These medications include:
A comprehensive treatment plan to support the health of men living with prostate cancer may include a range of complementary and alternative therapies. Preliminary studies suggest that some nutritional supplements may reduce the symptoms of some prostate cancers or reduce your risk of developing it. Ask your team of health care providers about the best ways to incorporate these therapies into your overall treatment plan. Always tell your health care provider about the herbs and supplements you are using or considering using. Do not try to treat prostate cancer with supplements on your own.
Follow these tips to reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer:
These nutrients may have cancer-fighting properties:
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to get your problem diagnosed before starting any treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (such as capsules, powders, and teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, you should make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 - 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 - 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 - 4 cups per day.
Acupuncture may provide relief from side effects of orchiectomy, removal of the testes. Studies also support using acupuncture to relieve pain that often occurs when cancer has spread beyond the prostate, particularly to the bones. A National Institutes of Health statement released in 1997 also supports the use of acupuncture to reduce nausea from chemotherapy.
Evidence suggests acupuncture can be a valuable therapy for cancer-related symptoms, particularly nausea and vomiting that often accompanies chemotherapy treatment. Studies have also found that acupuncture may help reduce pain and shortness of breath. Acupressure, or pressing on rather than needling acupuncture points, may also help control breathlessness and is a technique that patients can learn and then use to treat themselves.
Studies suggest that massage reduces stress and boosts immune function, so it may help relieve anxiety for men being treated for prostate cancer.
Pelvic floor exercises -- tightening and releasing muscles that start and stop the flow of urine -- may help with incontinence caused by prostatectomy (removal of the prostate).
Meditation may reduce stress, ease anxiety, and allow men with prostate cancer to regain a sense of self-control.
Most complications from prostate cancer come from specific treatments. These include:
The outlook for a man with prostate cancer depends on his age, the stage of tumor growth, whether he has any underlying medical illnesses, and his PSA levels. The prognosis for men with cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate is good. Most of these cancers are curable, and after 15 years the same number of these men will be alive as those who never had prostate cancer. If the cancer spreads beyond the prostate and does not respond to hormone medications, however, the prognosis is poor. Still, most prostate tumors are slow-growing, and even men with advanced prostate cancer may survive for 5 years or more.
Cancer - prostate
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