September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
The National Cancer Institute estimates there are almost 200,000 newly diagnosed cases of prostate cancer in the United States annually. In addition, prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men in the United States.
The Prostate Gland
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland found in the male reproductive system. The normal prostate gland is quite small and weighs only about an ounce. It is somewhat firm. 30 percent of it is made up of muscular tissue and the rest consists of glandular tissue. The main purpose of the prostate is to produce seminal fluid, which transports sperm during the male orgasm.
Prostate cancer occurs when a malignant tumor is formed in the prostate gland. If left untreated, the cancer can grow and spread beyond the prostate into the surrounding tissues and lymph nodes. The cancer can also spread to distant parts of the body such as the bones, lungs and liver. This spread is called metastasis. As a result of metastasis, many men experience aches and pains in the bones, pelvis, hips, ribs and back.
Risk factors of developing prostate cancer include:
- Age — most patients are over 65
- Family history
- African-American men are more likely to get this type of cancer
- Diets heavy in red meat and high-fat dairy products and low in vegetables and fruit
- Physical inactivity
Men with prostate cancer may experience a combination of the following symptoms:
- Frequent urination, particularly at night
- Difficulty starting or holding back urination
- Weak or unable to urinate
- Painful urination
- Painful ejaculation
- Difficulty having an erection
- Blood in semen or urine
- Pain in lower back, hips or upper thighs
Detection and Diagnosis
Many tests can help detect and diagnose prostate cancer, including the following two:
Digital Rectal Exam
In this exam, the physician feels for abnormal growth or hardness by inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum.
Prostate Specific Antigen
Prostate specific antigen (PSA) has been employed as an indicator of early, potentially curable prostate cancer. It can identify patients with prostate cancers not detectable by digital rectal examination with the aid of a blood test.