When people hear the word cancer it is a very natural response to become very scared and think that your world has come to an end. However when it comes to prostate cancer it may come as a surprise to know that it is a very slow growing cancer that is relatively benign. This is not to say that it is not serious, as every cancer is very serious, however most men with prostate cancer actually die from something else and often they are only found out to have prostate cancer after death. Because prostate cancer grows slowly this means that there is no hurry to rush into a decision and you can take your time to gather all the information regarding what treatment is right for you.
What is it?
Cancer means that some of the cells in your body have gone a bit haywire and are growing and replicating in a way that is not natural and will result in a tumor. In the case of prostate cancer this process is going on in your prostate gland and so for obvious reasons this condition only affects men. Your prostate gland sits just behind your bladder and is responsible for making some of the fluid that comes out of the penis when you ejaculate. Tumors can cause problems in the body by either growing in such a way that they obstruct important functions or by having parts that break off and migrate around the rest of your body causing cancer in other places. This is the phenomenon that is known as malignancy.
In the early stages of the disease men with prostate cancer will not get any symptoms at all. In fact symptoms of prostate cancer are more likely if the cancer spreads to another site and begins to grow there. Prostate cancer grows very slowly, however when they do get to a decent size they can start to block your urine flow and make it difficult to pass urine into the toilet. Some men find that they will have to go to the toilet more often and others may find that they need to get to the toilet more urgently. The urine coming our of the penis may at times stop and start and it may be difficult getting the flow going in the first place. It is also very likely that if you have the above symptoms then you may notice that your organisms during sexual intercourse may become painful and sex may become less enjoyable as you worry about the pain that may come at the end. One of the places that cancer of the prostate commonly spreads is to the bones and this will leave the patient feeling stiff and sore and the bones may become weaker and break more frequently. Your doctor may describe your cancer in terms of a few letters and numbers that in medicine refer to how far the cancer has spread. You do not need to worry about this medical lingo, however you should expect a full description from your doctor about what this means for you.
Cancer is not what it used to be in terms of treatment and whilst there is no definitive cure we now cure 50% of people with cancer. Prostate cancer is one of the better types to have as it grows slowly and many patients die of something else before this cancer affects them. Unlike many cancers, prostate cancer has a good prognosis even if the cancer spreads to the nearby tissues. The following information regarding treatment is directed at cancer that has not yet spread outside the gland. For more information regarding other treatment talk to your doctor who will have a whole range of options for your specific case.
Surgery is a very popular option and this for the most part involves removing the affected gland. This works on the principle of simply cutting out the affected tissue and some of that around it in order to remove the cancer, providing you with an instant fix if all goes well. There are numerous techniques whereby they can cut through your abdomen or through the skin between your scrotum and anus. Your surgeon will discuss the options with you and you will be given a general anesthetic for this operation. Surgery in the case of prostate cancer does not show much more benefit than simply watching and waiting in most cases and this needs to be discussed with your surgeon. You should know that removing a prostate gland is a very major operation and may leave you with major difficulties in controlling your urine flow and many people are incontinent after this operation. Also many men are not able to get an erection following surgery and thus can no longer engage in sexual activity. Even if you can have sex there will be no semen produced upon ejaculation, however your surgeon will describe all of this to you when you are considering what operation is right for you.
Another option is something known as active surveillance and this is more or less watching and waiting. In this case you will undergo regular check ups to see how your prostate cancer is growing and no form of treatment will be offered until adverse effects begin to emerge. Many men prefer this option as there are no side effects and a doctor is still seeing them. They will get treatment if it is required, however as mentioned earlier prostate cancer grows slowly and many men will never need treatment in their lives. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of the options and you will need to way these up with your doctor as everyone varies on a case-by-case basis.
Radiotherapy is another option and this is a method that uses energy rays to kill the cancer cells that are dividing abnormally within your body. In hospital the machine will be targeted at your prostate gland and your treatment will be broken down into very small doses. You will need to be very committed to this regime as it involves up to five visits a week for many weeks. We do not know how effective radiotherapy is in terms of survival benefits for patients with prostate cancer. There are many side effects involved with this treatment method and some find that they lose control of their bowels, they may also feel tired and get skin irritation. Others can have problems in the future with controlling the flow of urine and may have trouble getting and maintaining an erection. There is a second type of radiotherapy known as brachytherapy and this is where small radioactive seeds are placed in the prostate during a small operation in order to kill the abnormal cells. However the research for this is not great at this time but many men prefer it as it means fewer trips to the hospital and fewer side effects.
Cells in your prostate gland require testosterone in order to grow and divide and so we can use hormones to stop the testosterone from being able to work in the prostate gland. This may slow down the rate at which the cancer is able to grow. You can get an injection or have an operation to remove your testicles; both will do a similar thing. Generally this hormone therapy is performed in addition to radiotherapy if it is thought that the cancer has a good chance of spreading.
Prostate cancer is generally a slow growing cancer and most men who have it do not die as a result if it. However prostate cancer can be a very serious condition and can spread to affect other parts of your body. It is never easy to say how you will react to the cancer and you must talk to your doctor about all of the options and decide between you what you think the best option is for you.