Frequently Asked Questions about Prostate Cancer

1. Is prostate cancer common? Prostate cancer is very common among men above a certain age. The older you are, the greater the risk of being diagnosed with the disease. Around 95% of all prostate cancer cases are diagnosed from ages 45 to 80. It is the second most common cancer among men, next only to lung cancer. Prostate cancer is also very common among men whose relatives have the disease.

2. How is prostate cancer diagnosed? Several tests are used to diagnose prostate cancer. These methods include the PSA blood test, digital rectal examinations, biopsies, and x-rays. Of these, the PSA is the most commonly used. None of these tests are considered foolproof; several tests often have to be performed to prove that a patient has the illness.

3. How is prostate cancer treated? Most cases of prostate cancer grow so slowly that treatment is rarely needed. Because the disease commonly occurs among older men, many patients die even before the cancer develops enough to have a material effect on their lives. Most cases are subjected to “watchful waiting”, which simply means that the patient is placed under observation and routine testing. If the cancer reaches a point wherein it becomes a threat to the patient, other treatment methods will come into play. These methods include radiotherapy, hormone therapy, and surgery.

In radiotherapy, also known as radiation treatment, high energy rays are used to kill the prostate cancer cells. This works to destroy the tumors and helps reduce the pain caused when the tumor affects the bones.

In brachytherapy, small radioactive pellets are placed within the tumor itself, slowly killing it from within. Brachytherapy has shown mixed results over the years, but it has also caused fewer side effects than other treatments.

In hormone therapy, the androgens produced by the body are inhibited. Prostate cancer cells grow by feeding on androgens – once the androgens are inhibited, the cells have a much harder time multiplying. The result is a stop in the growth of the tumor. After a period of time, however, prostate cancer tumors can resume growth even without the androgens, in which case other alternatives methods of treatment must be considered.

The surgical methods include many different variations of prostatectomy, which involves removing the prostate gland. Some variations are:

Transurethral resection of the prostate. The surgeon removes a portion of the prostate with a long, thin device that is inserted through the urethra. This treatment is also used to relieve a blockage of urine.

Radical perineal prostatectomy. The surgeon makes a long cut in the abdomen and removes the entire prostate along with any lymph nodes that are in the vicinity.

Pelvic lymphadenectomy. The surgeon takes out the lymph nodes in the pelvis and checks them for cancerous growth.

4. How will the treatments affect my sex life?

Many treatments for prostate cancer cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. Other side effects may include reduced ejaculation, lowered sex drive, urinary incontinence, bowel problems, and excessive fatigue. All the treatments have different side effects; therefore each patient should carefully consider the risks that come with each one before deciding on a particular method.

Hopefully these helped answer your frequently asked questions about prostate cancer


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