About Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers amongst men but is also one of the most successfully treated. This type of cancer develops in the walnut-shaped gland that is responsible for:
- Producing semen
- Transporting sperm
It’s a typically—but not always—slow growing cancer that lingers awhile in the prostate gland without spreading or causing serious damage. However, left untreated, it will eventually destroy the prostate and metastasize in local and distant organs.
There are several different types of prostate cancer. The most common types found in prostate cancer patients include:
- Acinar adenocarcinoma – Cancerous cells or tumors that originate in the gland cells lining the prostate gland. This accounts for the vast majority of cases of prostate cancer.
- Ductal adenocarcinoma – Begins in the cells that line the prostate gland’s ducts. It’s a more aggressive and more invasive form of adenocarcinoma.
- Transitional cell cancer – Also known as urothelial cancer, this starts in the cells that line the urethra. While it can begin in the prostate, it most commonly starts in the bladder and then spreads to the prostate.
- Squamous cell cancer – A quickly developing and spreading cancer cells that grow on the flat cells covering the prostate.
- Small cell prostate cancer – A form of neuroendocrine cancer that is composed of small round cells.
According to the American Cancer Society, annually there’ll be:
- About 174,650 new cases of prostate cancer.
- About 31,620 deaths from prostate cancer.
The average prostate cancer patient is a man over the age of 65 years old.
Causes and Risk Factors of Prostate Cancer
To this day, doctors remain unsure as to why the cells in the prostate begin to mutate and then accumulate. However, we do know some risk factors that can increase the chances of developing prostate cancer:
- Age – Risk of prostate cancer increases with age.
- Race – As is the case in several forms of cancer, black men face greater risk of prostate cancer compared to other men of different races. They’re also more likely to have an aggressive form of cancer.
- Genetic History – If men in your family had prostate cancer, or if women in your family have had breast cancer, your likelihood of developing it are significantly increased.
- Obesity – Most every form of cancer has a link between unhealthy weight and cancer. Obese patients diagnosed with prostate cancer typically will have a more aggressive version of the disease as well.
Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging
Prostate cancer rarely exhibits perceptible symptoms in its early stages of development. In later stages, signs can include:
- Blood in semen
- Blood in urine
- Bone pain
- Difficulty urinating
- Erectile dysfunction
- Pelvic pain, pressure, or discomfort
- Weak urine stream
Prostate cancer screening is generally done in one of two ways:
- Digital rectal exam – A doctor digitally examines the prostate, searching via feel for abnormalities in the gland.
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test – During a PSA test, a blood sample is taken and then analyzed for your PSA level. If high percentages are found, it can be an indication of prostate cancer.
Stages of Prostate Cancer
When it comes to staging, there are scores assigned based on the three TNM factors:
- T – Tumor size and location
- N – The number of nearby lymph nodes involved
- M – Metastasis, how far it has spread
According to the TNM classification, staging has nuance or secondary stages depending on the specific case; however, certain generalities do apply.
- Stage I – The cancerous cells are growing in the prostate but haven’t yet spread beyond it and the tumor is in half or less than half of the prostate.
- Stage II – The cancer has stayed within the prostate, but the tumor is able to touch more than half of a lobe of the prostate.
- Stage III – During this stage, the cancer has spread outside the prostate. However, the prostate cancer cells have not made it to the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV – At this late stage, the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, but may or may not have spread to distant organs, depending on whether it is stage IVA or IVB.
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American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Prostate Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
Chornokur, G. NCBI. Racial Differences in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Prostate Cancer. (2016). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5169094/
WebMD. Stages and Grades of Prostate Cancer. https://www.webmd.com/prostate-cancer/prostate-cancer-stages#3