Prostate Cancer is a number one risk for, and also the most common cancer in, men. It’s also the 2nd biggest cancer killer, just a step behind lung cancer.
This male cancer occurs in the prostate gland, which is part of the male reproductive system. This gland is shaped like a walnut, and produces the seminal fluid that transports and nourishes sperm.
Prostate cancer grows slowly and is initially confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause severe damage. While some types of prostate cancer grow unhurriedly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types can be aggressive and can spread rapidly.
Early detection, when still confined to the prostate gland, has an improved chance of successful treatment.
There are usually no symptoms during the early stages of prostate cancer. However, if symptoms do appear, they usually involve one or more of the following:
- Trouble urinating
- Decreased force in the stream of urine
- Blood in semen
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
If the cancer spreads to the spine and compresses the spinal cord, there may be:
- Leg weakness
- Urinary incontinence
- Faecal incontinence
It’s not clear what causes prostate cancer. This cancer begins when some cells in your prostate become abnormal. Mutations in the abnormal cells’ DNA cause the cells to cultivate and divide more rapidly than normal cells do. The irregular cells continue living, when other cells would die. The accruing abnormal cells form a tumour that can grow to invade nearby tissue. Some abnormal cells can also break off and spread to other parts of the body.
Factors that can amplify your risk include:
Your risk increases as you age
Black men generally carry a greater risk of prostate cancer than do men of other races. In black men, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced.
If other men in your family have had prostate cancer, your risk may be increased. If you have a family history of genes that increase the risk of breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2) or a very strong family history of breast cancer, your risk of prostate cancer may be higher.
Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer may be more likely to have advanced disease that’s more difficult to treat.
When to see a doctor
Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. Discuss prostate screening with your doctor – together you can decide what’s best for you.
Look out for installment 2 of this blog, where we discuss complications and treatment options for prostate cancer.
Resources: Mayo Clinic