What is prostate cancer?
The most common cancer among men
Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop in the prostate. These abnormal cells can continue to multiply in an uncontrolled way and sometimes spread outside the prostate into nearby or distant parts of the body.
Despite being a serious disease, most of the cases are in an early-stage when detected or they grow slowly. This means they have a low risk of spreading and may not even need any immediate treatment or surgery, what allows to promote and maintain a high level of quality of life, and prevents the patient from the chances to suffer from adverse events such as sexual, urinary, and bowel dysfunction after pursuing a sometimes not necessary aggressive treatment.
For this reason, it is important to focus on reaching a precise diagnosis of the cancer case, which let doctors identify where and how the lesion is and its stage and consequently to bring adapted answers to every patient.
The prostate: function and anatomy
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is located inside a man’s body between his bladder and rectum. The prostate surrounds the urethra, the passage in the penis through which urine and semen pass. The prostate fulfills a first f
unction in urination by the presence of sphincters upstream and downstream. It has a sexual function as well, as it is responsible for the preparation of semen and ejaculation. That is why changes in a man’s urinary or sexual function might indicate prostate cancer.
There are three zones within a normal prostate: the posterior peripheral zone and two anterior symmetric lobes that make up the adenoma. The latter tends to grow with age (benign hypertrophy). Sometimes this can cause problems that are common in older men and not always symptoms or signs of cancer.
What are the symptoms?
Prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages. In advanced stages, some symptoms of prostate cancer might include:
- Feeling the frequent or sudden need to urinate
- Trouble urinating (for example, trouble starting or not being able to urinate or urine flow is poor)
- Discomfort when urinating
- Blood in semen or urine
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Bone pain
- Erection problems
Such symptoms do not mean the presence of a cancer! If experiencing any of those signs, first step is to make an appointment with your primary care doctor.
How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
Most prostate cancers are first found during screening, as in early stage do not develop any symptom. However, more advanced cancers may cause some urinary or sexual problem that can reveal the disease. If prostate cancer is suspected, some tests will be needed, as well as a final biopsy that will eventually confirm if there is a cancer or not.
Prostate cancer screening is now carried out in two ways: by a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE), by a PSA blood test and more recently by a MRI scan test