What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is cancer of the small, walnut-shaped gland in males that is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The tube that carries urine runs through the prostate and contains cells that develop the fluid that nourish and protect sperm. Prostate cancer affects 1 in 6 men making it the most common form of cancer in the United States.
What are the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?
Because prostate cancer often develops slowly, many men do not notice any symptoms in the early stages of the cancer when it is easiest to treat and confined to the prostate. When signs and symptoms do occur, they vary based on the stage of the cancer and how far it has spread. Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- Urinary problems (trouble urinating, starting and stopping, decreased flow)
- Blood in urine or semen
- Leg swelling and pelvic discomfort (often occurs if the cancer has spread to pelvic lymph nodes)
- Consistent bone pain or fractures (often occurs if the cancer has spread to the bones)
Am I At Risk for Prostate Cancer?
Many factors determine a man’s risk for prostate cancer. They are:
- Age – Risk increases over the age of 50.
- Race – Statistics show that African American men have a greater risk of developing and dying from prostate cancer.
- Family History – Risk increases if a father or brother have had the disease.
- Diet – A high-fat diet and obesity increases the cancer risk.
- High Testosterone Levels – Men who use testosterone therapy increase their risk of developing Prostate Cancer.
How is Prostate Cancer Diagnosed?
Prostate Cancer is frequently diagnosed during routine screenings such as a Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) and Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test.
A Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) feels for abnormalities on the prostate (both growths and enlargement). While it is not an entirely comfortable experience, it is one that takes a matter of seconds and saves lives.
Digital Rectal Examination
A Prostate-Specific Antigen blood test checks the level of prostate-specific antigen in the blood; elevated PSA levels can be a sign of cancer.
If the above tests raise any concerns, additional tests may be needed to determine if it is cancer and if so, the stage of the disease. These tests may include a transrectal ultrasound, bone scan, CT/MRI or a biopsy with a Gleason score. A Gleason score is determined by the pathologist and is used for staging.
Who Should Be Screened for Prostate Cancer?
Men over the age of 50 should have a DRE and PSA blood test performed yearly by a licensed medical professional. If you have any of the risk factors mentioned above, you may want to begin your screenings earlier. We encourage you to discuss this with your doctor.
How is Prostate Cancer Treated?
There are many different types of treatment for prostate cancer, including radiation therapy, hormone therapy, radical prostatectomy, chemotherapy, cryotherapy and watchful waiting (which is based on the premise that some cancers advance so slowly that they may not cause any trouble in the patient’s lifetime and therefore may not require treatment). The type of treatment recommended by a physician depends on many of the patient’s factors, including:
- The patient age and life expectancy
- The patient’s other health issues
- How far advanced the cancer is
- The odds of the treatment curing the cancer
- The patient’s feelings on the various side effects associated with many treatments
What is a Radical Prostatectomy?
A radical prostatectomy is a surgery to remove the prostate gland and nearby lymph nodes. It is used most often when the cancer has not spread past the prostate. A radical prostatectomy can be performed either laparoscopically with small puncture wounds or with an open incision.
Jewish Hospital offers the leading edge technology to perform radical prostatectomies—the da Vinci S robot. The da Vinci robot allows a specially-trained surgeon to remove the prostate gland and surrounding lymph nodes with a minimally-invasive approach. What does this mean to the man facing the surgery? Robotic prostatectomy benefits include:
- Increased retention of bladder control and erectile function
- A shorter hospital stay and quicker return to normal daily activities than traditional “open” procedures
- Less post-operative pain and medication
- Smaller incisions and scarring
- Less blood loss
- Magnified view and visualization for the surgeon which helps the surgeon avoid damaging the delicate structures and nerves surrounding the prostate.
For more information regarding the da Vinci Surgical System and robotic prostatectomies, click here.
How Can I Learn More?
You can learn more about prostate cancer screenings, risk and treatment options by talking to your doctor. If you do not have a family physician, Jewish Physician Group with Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare (JHSMH) has offices located throughout the Louisville Metro area. You can call (866) 521-DOCS to find a physician near you.
If you or a loved one is facing a cancer diagnosis, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare Cancer Services is here to assist you. JHSMH has dedicated Clincal Coordinators who assist in navigating our patients through the screening, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Learn more by calling (502) 587-4108.