Second to skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among men. It is estimated that 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime.
Older men are most likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer with the average age of diagnosis being 66 years old. The disease is rare in men under 40.
Cause and Types
Prostate cancer is the result of cells of the prostate gland growing out of control. Prostate glands are found in males below the bladder and are responsible for producing some of the fluid in semen.
The vast majority of prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas. Some rare types of prostate cancer include:
- Transitional cell carcinomas
- Small cell carcinomas
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, there are three well-established risk factors for developing prostate cancer: age, family history, and race.
The risk for prostate cancer increases dramatically as men age. 60% of prostate cancers are diagnosed in men 65 and older. Men around this age should consider screening for the disease regularly.
Research indicates that prostate cancer is a highly hereditary form of cancer. Men with a close relative who has had prostate cancer may be twice as likely to have it themselves. It is estimated that 58% of the risk is determined by genetic factors.
There is also a clear risk factor tied to race. African American men are 75% more likely to develop prostate cancer compared to Caucasian men. They are also over twice as likely to die from the disease.
While scientists have not determined an exact cause for this increased risk, it is speculated that the difference in mortality rates may be due to a difference in social factors like inequality to access in screening and treatment.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
Not all men experience the same symptoms of prostate cancer. Some men may not have any symptoms at all.
Of men who do experience symptoms, there are several that are commonly associated with prostate cancer.
- Difficulty urinating
- Pain with ejaculation
- Urinating often, especially overnight
- Weak urine stream
- Blood in urine or semen
- Pain in the back, hips, or pelvic area that does not go away
It is important to note that these symptoms can be signs of other conditions besides prostate cancer. If you are experiencing these symptoms, see your healthcare professional.
Diagnosing Prostate Cancer
There are two common screening tests for diagnosing prostate cancer. One is a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. Elevated PSA levels indicate an issue with a prostate. Other conditions can also cause this, so further testing will be needed.
The second screening tool is a digital rectal exam (DRE) where a healthcare provider feels for abnormal changes in the prostate.
If either of these screening tools shows that there may be an issue, a prostate biopsy and imaging may be done.
Prostate Cancer Treatments and Medications
There are many treatments and medications available for prostate cancer.
If a patient does not have any signs or symptoms, sometimes the recommendation will be to monitor the patient and not actively treat them.
Surgery is an option when the tumor is isolated to the prostate gland. The prostate and surrounding tissues are removed, and sometimes nearby lymph nodes need to be removed.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to target cancer cells. The type of radiation and the way it is delivered will vary based on the stage of cancer.
Since male hormones can promote the growth of prostate cancers, several medications target male sex hormones. There are different mechanisms among the drugs. Some work by blocking the production of hormones. Some work by blocking the hormones from working in the body.
Some of the most commonly prescribed medications for prostate cancer include:
There are also many drugs in clinical trials that prostate cancer patients may participate in. A healthcare provider will recommend the best treatment options.