Types of Cancer
Located behind the base of a man’s penis, below the bladder and in front of the rectum, the walnut-sized prostate is responsible for the creation of seminal fluid. Prostate cancer occurs when the healthy prostate cells begin to grow uncontrollably and change to form a tumour that is either cancerous or benign. Prostate cancer is often slow growing and unlikely to spread to other areas of the body. It may not cause symptoms for several years, if at all. If prostate cancer does spread throughout the body, in most cases it can be managed with existing treatments for many years. If the cancer is non-responsive to treatments, it is more likely to cause painful symptoms and can lead to death.
It is necessary to monitor the growth of prostate cancer over time to determine the speed of which the tumour is growing and thus the best treatment moving forward. Oncology teams track this growth under a microscope using histology. The most commonly found histology within prostate cancer is known as adenocarcinoma. Less common variants of prostate cancer are often more aggressive than adenocarcinoma, spread quickly and produce less PSA. These can include small cell prostate cancer and neuroendocrine prostate cancer.
Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)
PSA is a cell-produced protein that the prostate gland releases into the blood stream. While there is no typical PSA level, a blood-test can determine whether a man’s PSA is much higher than normal. High levels of PSA can be found in prostate cancer. It is important to note however, that other conditions that are not linked to cancer can also cause higher than usual PSA levels. These can include prostatitis – the infection of the prostate, or benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) – a condition when the urethra becomes blocked. Typically, PSA testing is discouraged by health professionals unless there is a specific cause to test a man, for example a family history of prostate cancer.
Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
There are several possible symptoms of prostate cancer. A patient may experience a range of these, or none at all. There are other reasons that a person may experience these symptoms, so it is important to note that if these occur this does not solely indicate cancer. It is important to speak with your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Blood in the urine
- Blood in the seminal fluid
- Frequent urination, particularly at night
- Interrupted flow of urine
- Straining to urinate
- Erectile dysfunction where it was not before
- Discomfort when sitting
- Pain during urination
When a cancer spreads outside of the prostate gland, there may be further symptoms including:
- Changes in bowel movements
- Weight loss that is unexplained
- Pain in the back, hips, shoulders or thighs
- Pain in the bones
All symptoms should be discussed with your doctor as they may provide some insight into an underlying condition. If/when cancer is diagnosed, one of the major treatments will be palliative care. This care works to relieve a patient from their symptoms and helps them live a more comfortable life whilst living with cancer.