Prostate Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Raising awareness about prostate cancer is of paramount importance as it plays a pivotal role in early detection, prevention, and ultimately saving lives. Prostate cancer is a common yet often silent disease, with many men remaining asymptomatic until it reaches an advanced and less treatable stage. By increasing awareness, individuals become more knowledgeable about risk factors, screening options, and the importance of regular check-ups.

Q) What is prostate cancer?

A) Prostate cancer is a prevalent and potentially life-threatening malignancy that affects the prostate, a walnut-sized gland located just below the bladder in men. It arises from the abnormal growth of cells in the prostate, leading to the formation of a tumour. The exact cause of prostate cancer remains unclear.

This cancer is a complex and multifaceted disease that requires a comprehensive understanding, encompassing its causes, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment options, and prognosis.

Q) Who is at risk of developing prostate cancer?

A) Prostate cancer is a significant health concern, with millions of cases diagnosed worldwide each year. Understanding the risk factors for this disease is crucial for early detection and prevention.

  • Age: Age is a prominent risk factor for prostate cancer. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the risk of developing this cancer increases significantly with age. Prostate cancer is rare in men under 40, but the likelihood of diagnosis rises rapidly after age 50. Therefore, older men should be particularly vigilant about prostate cancer screenings.

  • Family History and Genetics: Family history and genetics play a crucial role in prostate cancer risk. Men with close relatives (father, brother, or son) who have had prostate cancer are at a higher risk. The risk increases if multiple family members have been diagnosed. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) explains that some inherited gene mutations, such as those in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, may also increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.

  • Diet and Lifestyle: Diet and lifestyle choices can also impact prostate cancer risk. A diet that is high in red and processed meats, as well as a low intake of fruits and vegetables, may increase the risk. A healthy diet, including regular consumption of fruits and vegetables, can help lower the risk of prostate cancer.

  • Exposure to Chemicals: Occupational and environmental exposures to certain chemicals such as cadmium may contribute to prostate cancer risk.

Q) How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

A) Prostate cancer is a common malignancy in men, and early diagnosis is critical for effective treatment.

Screening for Prostate Cancer:

  • Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test: The PSA test is a blood test that measures the level of prostate-specific antigen, a protein produced by the prostate gland. Elevated PSA levels can be indicative of prostate issues, including cancer.

  • Digital Rectal Examination (DRE): A DRE is a physical examination in which a healthcare provider inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland. Abnormalities in the size, shape, or texture of the prostate may suggest a need for additional tests.

Confirmatory Diagnostic Tests:

  • Prostate Biopsy: If screening tests, particularly the PSA test or DRE, suggest the presence of prostate cancer, a prostate biopsy is often recommended to confirm the diagnosis. During a prostate biopsy, a healthcare provider takes small tissue samples from the prostate using a thin needle. These samples are then examined under a microscope to determine if cancer is present. The biopsy also provides information about the cancer’s stage and grade.

  • Gleason Score: The Gleason score is a grading system used to evaluate the microscopic appearance of prostate cancer cells obtained from a biopsy. The score, ranging from 2 to 10, assesses how aggressive the cancer appears. A higher Gleason score indicates a more aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Imaging Studies:

  • Transrectal Ultrasound (TRUS): TRUS is an imaging technique that uses sound waves to create a picture of the prostate gland. It can help guide the biopsy needle to specific areas of concern.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI is increasingly used for prostate cancer diagnosis and staging. It provides detailed images of the prostate and surrounding tissues, helping healthcare providers identify the size and extent of the tumour. Advanced MRI techniques, such as multiparametric MRI, can improve the accuracy of cancer detection and localization.

Additional Testing for Staging:

  • CT Scan: In cases where the cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes or other nearby organs, a CT scan may be conducted. This imaging test provides detailed cross-sectional images to assess the extent of cancer spread.

  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan: PET scans, often combined with CT scans (PET/CT), can provide valuable information about the spread of prostate cancer. These scans are particularly useful in identifying metastases in distant organs.

Genetic Testing:

Genetic Testing and Counseling: For individuals with a strong family history of prostate cancer or specific risk factors, genetic testing may be recommended. It can identify inherited gene mutations, such as those in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which may increase the risk of prostate cancer. Genetic counselling can help individuals understand their risk and make informed decisions about screening and prevention.

Q) What are the symptoms and treatment plan of prostate cancer?

A) Prostate cancer is a complex disease, and its symptoms and treatment plan can vary based on factors such as the stage of the cancer, the patient’s overall health, and individual preferences.


Prostate cancer often develops slowly and may not cause noticeable symptoms in its early stages. As the cancer progresses, some men may experience the following symptoms:

  • Urinary Changes: Prostate cancer can affect the urinary system. Men may notice an increased frequency of urination, especially at night (nocturia), a weak or interrupted urine stream, difficulty starting or stopping urination, or a sense of not emptying the bladder completely.

  • Blood in Urine or Semen: Hematuria (blood in the urine) or hematospermia (blood in semen) may occur in some cases of prostate cancer. While these symptoms can be alarming, they are not specific to prostate cancer and can be caused by other conditions as well. It is important to consult a doctor for a proper evaluation.

  • Pelvic Discomfort: Prostate cancer can lead to pelvic pain or discomfort. This may be a dull, deep ache in the lower pelvis, lower back, hips, or upper thighs. These symptoms are often associated with advanced prostate cancer, but they can also be caused by other medical issues.

  • Erectile Dysfunction: In some cases, prostate cancer and its treatments can lead to erectile dysfunction (impotence), making it difficult for men to achieve or maintain an erection. However, it’s important to note that not all men with prostate cancer experience this side effect, and effective treatments are available.

  • Advanced Symptoms: In advanced stages of prostate cancer, when the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, individuals may experience more severe symptoms, such as bone pain (due to bone metastases), unintended weight loss, and fatigue. These symptoms indicate a more aggressive form of the disease and require immediate medical attention.

Treatment Plan:

The treatment plan for prostate cancer depends on several factors, including the stage and grade of the cancer, the patient’s age and overall health, and individual preferences.

  • Active Surveillance: For low-risk, slow-growing prostate cancer, active surveillance may be recommended. This approach involves close monitoring through regular PSA tests, digital rectal exams, and sometimes repeat biopsies. Treatment is deferred unless there is evidence that the cancer is becoming more aggressive. The decision to pursue active surveillance is made in consultation with a healthcare provider.

  • Surgery: Surgical removal of the prostate, known as a prostatectomy, is a common treatment for localized prostate cancer. The two main surgical approaches are open radical prostatectomy and minimally invasive techniques, such as laparoscopic or robotic-assisted prostatectomy.

  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other radiation sources to kill cancer cells or stop their growth. It can be delivered externally (external beam radiation therapy) or internally via brachytherapy (the placement of radioactive seeds directly into the prostate). The choice of radiation therapy depends on the cancer’s stage and the patient’s overall health.

  • Hormone Therapy: Hormone therapy, also called androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), is used to reduce the levels of male hormones (androgens) in the body. These hormones can fuel the growth of prostate cancer cells. Hormone therapy can be administered through medications or surgical removal of the testicles (orchiectomy). It is often used in combination with other treatments for more advanced cases.

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. It is typically considered for advanced prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy may be administered intravenously or orally.

Early detection and a personalized approach to treatment are essential in managing prostate cancer effectively. Consulting with doctors and staying informed about the latest advances in prostate cancer care are crucial for those affected by this disease.

Q) How can you prevent yourself from getting prostate cancer?

A) Prostate cancer is a prevalent condition among men, but there are several proactive steps that individuals can take to reduce their risk.

  1. Healthy Diet and Nutrition: Maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet is a cornerstone of prostate cancer prevention. A diet that is low in saturated fats and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may help lower the risk of prostate cancer. Antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries, tomatoes, and green tea, have been associated with a reduced risk. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon may have protective effects.
  2. Limit Red and Processed Meats: High consumption of red and processed meats has been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer. Cooking methods that involve high-temperature grilling, frying, or charbroiling can produce carcinogens, so opting for healthier cooking techniques like baking or steaming is advisable.
  3. Calcium and Vitamin D: The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) suggests that excessive calcium intake, especially from supplements, may increase the risk of prostate cancer. It’s important to meet the daily recommended calcium intake through dietary sources and, if necessary, consult with a healthcare provider before taking calcium supplements. Additionally, maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D through sun exposure and dietary sources may be protective.
  4. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Obesity is associated with an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight through regular physical activity and a balanced diet is very beneficial. Engaging in regular exercise not only helps with weight management but also offers numerous other health benefits.
  5. Limit Alcohol Consumption: Moderate alcohol consumption may have some cardiovascular benefits, but excessive alcohol intake is linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
  6. Regular Medical Check-Ups: Early detection is a crucial aspect of prostate cancer prevention. Men should engage in regular medical check-ups and discussions with healthcare providers about prostate health. Starting around the age of 50, men should discuss the benefits and potential risks of prostate cancer screening with their healthcare provider, including the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination (DRE).
  7. Genetic Counseling and Family History: Individuals with a family history of prostate cancer, especially close relatives like a father or brother, may be at an increased risk. Considering genetic counselling and testing for those with a strong family history of the disease is advisable. This can provide valuable information about the risk of inherited gene mutations, such as those in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
  8. Reduce Exposure to Environmental Toxins: Some occupational and environmental exposures to chemicals, such as cadmium and certain pesticides, may be associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer. Reducing exposure to these toxins, especially in the workplace, may help reduce risk.
  9. Screening and Early Detection: Screening for prostate cancer, particularly for those at higher risk, is a key preventive measure. The decision to undergo screening should be based on individual risk factors and preferences, and it should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider. Regular PSA tests and DREs can help detect prostate cancer at an early, more treatable stage.

It is essential to consult with doctors for personalized guidance, particularly for individuals with a family history of the disease or other risk factors.

Getting the appropriate medical treatment and care is crucial to avoid any associated medical complications.

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