Prostate cancer

Also known as: Cancer, prostate

What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the tissues of the prostate gland. The prostate gland is a walnut-shaped organ located below a man's bladder that produces fluid for semen.

Prostate cancer is common in men older than 65. It usually grows slowly and can take years to grow large enough to cause any problems. As with other cancers, treatment for prostate cancer works best when the cancer is found early. Often, prostate cancer that has spread responds to treatment. Older men with prostate cancer usually die from other causes.

What causes prostate cancer?
Experts don't know what causes prostate cancer, but they believe that your age, family history (genetics) and race affect your chances of getting it. What you eat, such as foods high in fats, may also play a part.

What are the symptoms?
Prostate cancer usually does not cause symptoms in its early stages. Most men don't know they have it until it is found during a regular medical exam.

When problems are noticed, they are most often problems with urinating. But these same symptoms can also be caused by an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia). An enlarged prostate is common in older men.

See your doctor for a checkup if:

  • You have urinary problems, such as:
    • Not being able to urinate at all
    • Having a hard time starting or stopping the flow of urine
    • Having to urinate often, especially at night
    • Having pain or burning during urination
  • You have difficulty having an erection.
  • You have blood in your urine or semen.
  • You have deep and frequent pain in your lower back, belly, hip or pelvis.

How is it treated?
Your treatment will depend on what kind of cancer cells you have, how far they have spread, your age and general health, and your preferences. Prostate cancer is often curable if it is discovered early. There are a number of standard (currently in use) treatments, as well as other treatments that are being tested in clinical trials.

Visit Providence Urological Services and Providence Cancer Center for more information on cancer treatment near you.

Standard treatments for prostate cancer:
Active surveillance (watchful waiting):
Close monitoring of a patient’s condition, instead of treating it, may be offered in specific cases. Prostate cancers are often slow-growing. So, depending on a man’s age and the stage of the cancer, closely monitoring the cancer for signs of change may be offered.

Surgery: Prostatectomy, the surgical removal of part or all of the prostate gland, is a common treatment for early-stage prostate cancer and is usually performed by a urologistMinimally invasive or robotic prostatectomy may be an option in some cases.

Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is a surgical procedure to remove tissue from the prostate. It may be done to reduce symptoms or if the patient cannot have a radical prostatectomy.

Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy: external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy). The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the use of medicine to destroy cancer cells

Hormone therapy. Hormones control the growth and activity of body cells. Most prostate cancers depend on testosterone, the major male hormone, to grow. Hormone therapy removes hormones or blocks their action and stops cancer cells from growing. The testosterone levels can be reduced either by surgery (bilateral orchiectomy) or drugs.

Biologic therapy. Biologic therapy uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer.

Visit our Healthwise Library for more information on prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Read about Providence Urological Services or find a urologist near you.

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