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Prostate Cancer Information

  • Prostate cancer is a disease in which cancer develops in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system. Cancer occurs when cells of the prostate mutate and begin to multiply out of control. These cells may spread (metastasize) from the prostate to other parts of the body, especially the bones and lymph nodes. Prostate cancer may cause pain, difficulty in urinating, erectile dysfunction and other symptoms...
  • Rates of prostate cancer vary widely across the world. It is least common in South and East Asia, more common in Europe - though the rates vary widely between countries - and most common in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is least common among Asian men and most common amongst Black men. with figures for European men in between. However, these high rates may be affected by increasing rates of detection.

    Prostate cancer develops most frequently in men over fifty. This cancer can only occur in men; the prostate is exclusively of the male reproductive tract. It is the second most common type of cancer in men in the United States, where it is responsible for more male deaths than any other cancer except lung cancer. However, many men who develop prostate cancer never have symptoms, undergo no therapy, and eventually die of other causes. Many factors, including genetics and diet, have been implicated in the development of prostate cancer, but as of 2006, it is not a preventable disease.

    Prostate cancer is most often discovered by physical examination or by screening blood tests, such as the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test. There is some current concern about the accuracy of the PSA test and its usefulness. Suspected prostate cancer is typically confirmed by removing a piece of the prostate (biopsy) and examining it under a microscope. Further tests, such as X-rays and bone scans, may be performed to determine whether prostate cancer has spread.

    Treatment for prostate cancer may involve watchful waiting, surgery, radiation therapy, High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU), chemotherapy, cryosurgery, hormonal therapy, or some combination. Which option is best depends on the stage of the disease, the Gleason score, and the PSA level. Other important factors are the man's age, his general health, and his feelings about potential treatments and their possible side effects. Because all treatments can have significant side effects, such as erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence, treatment discussions often focus on balancing the goals of therapy with the risks of lifestyle alterations.

    If the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, treatment options significantly change, so most doctors who treat prostate cancer use a variety of nomograms to predict the probability of spread. Treatment by watchful waiting, HIFU, radiation therapy, cryosurgery, and surgery are generally offered to men whose cancer remains within the prostate. Hormonal therapy and chemotherapy are often reserved for disease which has spread beyond the prostate. However, there are exceptions: radiation therapy may be used for some advanced tumors, and hormonal therapy is used for some early stage tumors. Cryotherapy, hormonal therapy, and chemotherapy may also be offered if initial treatment fails and the cancer progresses.

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Michael T Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine

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