About the Condition
Prostate cancer develops in the prostate gland, and is the most common type of cancer in men, with around 40,000 men in the UK diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. This cancer occurs when the genetic material of cells in the prostate become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. The abnormal cells then replicate, causing cancer. If undetected, the cancer can spread beyond the prostate and move to other parts of the body. Prostate cancer is especially common in men over 50 years of age, and tends to be one of the slower-moving cancers.
Although the exact causes of prostate cancer are unknown, certain risk factors have been identified. These include:
- Age – as most cases are diagnosed in men over 50 years of age, the risk rises with age
- Ethnic group – prostate cancer is more common among men of African-Caribbean and African descent and is relatively rare among men of Asian and South and Central American descent.
- Family history – having a close male relative – such as a brother, father or uncle – who has had prostate cancer seems to increase the risk of you developing it. Research also shows that having a close female relative who developed breast cancer may also increase your risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Obesity – recent research suggests there may be a link between obesity and prostate cancer.
- Exercise – men who regularly exercise have been found to be at lower risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Diet – Some recent evidence indicates that a diet high in calcium is linked to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
The symptoms for the presence of prostate cancer include:
- urinating frequently, especially at night
- finding it hard to start urinating, or to stop
- painful urination
- having difficulty getting an erection
- painful ejaculation
- noticing blood in your urine or semen
- feeling pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thigh
Some men might find it embarrassing to talk about these sorts of symptoms, but if any of the above apply to you, or if you have any concerns about similar symptoms, it is essential that you see your doctor at once, as your chances of recovery are much higher if your cancer is diagnosed early.
If you’re referred to CCL for diagnosis, your consultant or oncologist will advise you on which tests are relevant to your individual symptoms. The symptoms of prostate cancer can also indicate other prostate conditions, and as these would all be treated differently it is vital to get an accurate diagnosis. Therefore, there are a number of tests for prostate cancer, which include:
- blood tests, which will check for a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA)
- a biopsy, which is referred to as a trans-rectal ultrasound (TRUS) guided prostate needle biopsy, to obtain a cell sample for examination and testing
- a computerised tomography (CT) scan, showing a 3D image of the prostate
- a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which is a procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body
- a bone scan with or without X-rays
- an ultrasound scan
- a urine flow test to check for an enlarged prostate
In order to work out how advanced the cancer is, samples of tissue from the biopsy are studied in a laboratory. If cancerous cells are found, they can be studied further to see how quickly the cancer will spread. Once the doctors know this, an accurate and effective treatment plan can be tailored to suit the needs of the patient.
The system for scoring the spread of the cancer is known as the Gleason score. The lower the score, the less likely the cancer will spread.
- A score of six or less means the cancer is unlikely to spread.
- A score of seven means there is a moderate chance of the cancer spreading.
- A score of eight or above means there is a significant chance the cancer will spread.
At CCL, patients with prostate cancer are treated by a team of different specialists, called a Multi-Disciplinary Team, or MDT. This team works together to create a treatment plan to suit the individual needs of the patient. There are a number of different treatments for prostate cancer, depending how advanced the cancer has spread. The treatments available include:
- Surgery: A radical prostatectomy, where the prostate gland is removed through a cut in your abdomen or the area between the testicles and the back passage
- Hormone Therapy – this helps to control prostate cancer by stopping the production of testosterone, or stopping testosterone reaching the prostate cancer cells
- External Beam Radiotherapy, a non-invasive technique where high-energy radiation is used to treat the prostate
- Chemotherapy, involving the use of chemical agents which are toxic to cancer cells, destroying them and preventing them from spreading to different areas. This can be given by injection or in tablet form.
- Biotherapy; these newer more targeted therapies assist the body in fighting the disease.