Culture, Featured, Health

Health – Understanding Prostate Cancer 

Nmesoma Okwudili


June 1, 2023

Prostate cancer is a major health issue that affects men all over the world. It is the second most frequent cancer in men, having far-reaching consequences for individuals and their families. 

Excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most frequent cancer in males globally. In 2020, an estimated 1.4 million new instances of prostate cancer were diagnosed, accounting for approximately 7.3% of all new cancer cases. Prostate cancer caused the death of roughly 375,000 men in 2020, accounting for approximately 3.8% of all cancer fatalities.

With age, the chance of having prostate cancer rises considerably. It is uncommon in men under the age of 40, but it becomes more common beyond the age of 50. The vast majority of instances involve men over the age of 65.

Prostate cancer refers to the malignant growth of cells within the prostate gland, a small walnut-shaped organ located below the bladder in men. The exact causes of prostate cancer are still unknown, but various risk factors have been identified, including age, family history, ethnicity, and lifestyle choices. It is more common in older men, with the majority of cases occurring in individuals over the age of 65.

For early identification and prevention of prostate cancer, it is essential to understand the risk factors. Given that the risk of prostate cancer increases with age, age is a major risk factor. Additionally, men who have a family history of prostate cancer are at a higher risk, highlighting the genetic nature of the condition. The likelihood of developing prostate cancer may also be influenced by other factors, including race and ethnicity. Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and quitting smoking may help lower the risk, even if certain risk factors cannot be changed or removed.

This cancer often exhibits minimal or no symptoms in its early stages, making regular screening critical for early detection. The common symptoms that may manifest in advanced stages include difficulty urinating, blood in the urine or semen, erectile dysfunction, and bone pain. Several screening methods are available, including the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination (DRE). These tests help identify abnormalities and prompt further investigation to confirm the presence of prostate cancer.

A prostate biopsy is used to make a conclusive diagnosis after screening results raise suspicion of prostate cancer. Small tissue samples from the prostate gland are taken during this process, and they are examined for any evidence of cancer cells. The Gleason score, which measures the cancer cells’ aggressiveness, is given to the collected samples. To ascertain the extent and spread of the cancer within the prostate and surrounding areas, staging is next carried out.

The stage of the cancer, the patient’s general health, and personal preferences all play a role in determining the best course of treatment for prostate cancer. Active monitoring, localised medications, and advanced treatments can be used to categorise treatment options broadly.

Active surveillance, also known as watchful waiting, is advised in cases of low-risk prostate cancer. This method involves regular surveillance and subsequent tests to track the tumor’s growth. The goal of active surveillance is to avoid unnecessary treatment and its possible adverse effects while maintaining timely intervention if the cancer progresses.

Localised treatments aim to eliminate or destroy cancer cells within the prostate gland. They include surgery, such as radical prostatectomy, which involves taking off the entire prostate gland, and radiation therapy, which targets and kills cancer cells with high-energy rays. Other localised treatments, such as cryotherapy and high-intensity targeted ultrasound (HIFU), are less invasive ways to destroy cancer cells.

Advanced prostate cancer that has spread beyond the prostate gland may require systemic treatments. Hormone therapy, also known as androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), aims to reduce the levels of male hormones (androgens) in the body, which fuel the growth of prostate cancer cells. Chemotherapy and targeted therapy may also be employed to target and kill cancer cells throughout the body.

While prostate cancer treatments aim at eliminating or controlling the disease, they can also have negative side effects on a patient’s quality of life. Urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction are common surgical side effects that can have an enormous effect on a patient’s psychological and physical well-being. Radiation therapy can cause urinary issues, bowel problems, and fatigue. Hormone therapy can result in hot flashes, libido loss, and mood swings. Chemotherapy frequently causes hair loss, nausea, and fatigue. It is critical for healthcare providers to address these side effects and provide support and resources to patients during and after treatment to improve their quality of life.

A multidisciplinary approach to treating prostate cancer includes assistance to meet patients’ physical, emotional, and psychosocial requirements. Pain management, dietary guidance, counselling or therapy for emotional support, and rehabilitation facilities to address treatment-related side effects are a few examples of supportive care services. Additionally, by offering resources, information, and long-term follow-up care, survivorship programs play a crucial role in assisting patients in adjusting to life following treatment.

Medical research is improving diagnostic methods, treatment options, and results as it deepens our understanding of prostate cancer. To tailor a patient’s care based on their unique genetic and molecular traits, researchers are examining targeted treatments, immunotherapies, and precision medicine techniques. Furthermore, present clinical trials look into new medicines and therapeutic approaches that show promise for boosting the efficiency of current therapies and raising survival rates.

Public awareness campaigns play a crucial role in promoting early detection and encouraging men to undergo regular screenings for prostate cancer. Education about risk factors, symptoms, and the importance of screening can empower individuals to seek medical attention promptly. Healthcare providers, advocacy organisations, and the media should collaborate to disseminate accurate information and encourage proactive health-seeking behaviours.

Millions of men and their families worldwide are affected by prostate cancer, which continues to be a serious health problem. Early detection and better results depend on an understanding of the risk factors, symptoms, and available treatments. Better diagnostic tools, targeted medicines, and improved survivorship programs are anticipated in the future thanks to continuous research and breakthroughs in treatment methods. Prostate cancer can be defeated and the quality of life for individuals who are afflicted with it can be improved by raising public awareness and encouraging routine tests.


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