What is Prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is common cancer in men. About 13% of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. It’s important to know that prostate cancer is very treatable, even in its advanced stages.
The biggest risk factor men face for prostate cancer is age. It’s rarely diagnosed in men under 40, with the average age at diagnosis of 66 years. In addition to age, other risk factors for developing prostate cancer include being of African American or Caribbean ancestry and having a father or brother who has had prostate cancer.
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a simple blood test that can be done to help detect prostate cancer at an early stage. There is not one specific level that officially diagnoses prostate cancer. Still, it can be followed as a trend over time, with an increasing PSA being more likely to be caused by prostate cancer.
PSA can fluctuate over time and can be elevated due to factors unrelated to prostate cancer. If a man is suspected of having prostate cancer, another testing will need to be done.
A prostate biopsy will ultimately need to be done to diagnose someone with the disease. There are multiple ways the biopsy can be done, but typically biopsies are taken from multiple areas of the prostate for evaluation.
Imaging tests such as ultrasound, MRI, CT scan, and PET scan can be done to assess the extent of the disease and provide staging information to see if the cancer is only in the prostate or has spread into lymph nodes or distant areas of the body.
There are multiple treatment options for prostate cancer, and which ones are used depends upon many factors.
Some men won’t have any treatment, and will be appropriate for “watchful waiting”, and will be followed with imaging and labs every few months, only to be treated if or when the cancer progresses.
Surgical removal of the prostate may be recommended for some but not all men with prostate cancer.
Radiation is a commonly used treatment, and can be given through external beam radiation, or brachytherapy. Brachytherapy is the placement of seeds containing radiation directly into the prostate to treat the cancer.
Hormone suppression is often given for prostate cancer as well. Testosterone is a fuel for the prostate cancer cells to grow, so decreasing the amount of testosterone in the body can help treat the cancer.