Prostate Cancer Symptoms, Tests, and Treatments

Jennifer G Health Guide July 29, 2010
  • My father's case of prostate cancer was discovered by chance: he exhibited no initial symptoms. This is fairly typical in older men, since prostate cancer often grows slowly and causes no problems until it is quite advanced. Regardless, it STILL is a form of carcinoma and there are some more aggresssive forms that can spread rapidly.

     

    The prostate itself is a walnut-shaped gland that encompasses the male urethra and it produces seminal fluid which nourishes and transports sperm for reproduction. A proliferation in cancer cells can affect sperm production, urinary functionings, and erectile abilities.


    Prostate Cancer Symptoms

     

    Knowing the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer--if any are exhibited--can help to determine the course(s) of action and eventual treatment(s.)

     

    As mentioned above, symptoms may not be noticeable until the cancer is more advanced, although more aggressive forms may reveal signs quite soon. Some of the common signs of prostate cancer include:

     

    • blood in the semen or urine
    • problems urinating
    • weak urine flow
    • leg swelling
    • bone pain
    • pelvic pain or discomfort
    • incontinence (more advanced cases)
    • erectile dysfunction

     

    Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

     

    There are a couple of prostate screening exams which can check for abnormalities and work as initial points to test for cancer.  There is a controversy as to whether patients should be screened for prostate cancer if they have no family history. Every doctor has a different opinion on this topic, and so asking your primary physician about this may be the first step to learn if you should be screened, considering symptoms aften don't present themselves until prostate cancer has spread. In any event, to check for abnormalities, a  digital rectal exam (DRE) may be performed, where your doctor will feel your prostate gland through the rectum to detect abnormalities in size, shape, and texture. A blood test, prostate-specific antigen or PSA, checks for abnormal blood levels which can indicate infection, inflammation, enlargement, or cancer.

     

    If abnormalities are noted with either the PSA or the DRE screenings, a prostate biopsy with or without an ultrasound exam may result.


    Prostate Cancer Treatments

     

    The methods for treatment depend a great deal upon a patient's age, overall health, and the aggressiveness of the disease. If action is seen as necessary by the treating physician, a course of radiation therapy, whether external beam radiation or brachytherapy (internal seed radiation), may be the initial answer.  Patients may also receive hormone therapy, which can shrink or kill cancer cells by lowering testosterone levels. There are also medications that block testosterone from reaching the cancer cells. Finally, radical testicular or prostate removal surgery may be an option for more advanced prostate cancer cases.

     

    For further reference, visit MayoClinic.com.

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