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The Hidden Truth of Prostate Cancer
Written By : M. Lieberman 
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Prostate cancer is without a doubt the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. If it is detected early and confined to the gland, then the prognosis is excellent. The prostate is a small gland that is located near the bladder in men. There is basically two types prostate cancer. One type is gentle and it has minimal effects. The other type can spread throughout the body, if not treated, and cause significant damage. It is important for prostate cancer to be detected early so the appropriate treatment can be utilized.

Prostate Cancer is usually a slow progressing type of cancer and the symptoms sometimes take years to develop. If the cancer is detected at an early stage, it is possible that there will be no noticeable symptoms. On the other hand, some men will experience some or all of the symptoms that can indicate that prostate cancer is present in their body. Sometimes the first symptoms can affect the lower back, hip or pelvic pain indicating the cancer may have has already spread. It is very important to understand that with either a benign enlargement of the prostate gland (non-cancerous) or malignancy (cancer), the symptoms are similar. These noticeable symptoms might include:

  • Frequent urination, especially during the night
  • Experiencing or having difficulty starting urination
  • A weak or interrupted urine flow
  • Discomfort, pain or a burning sensation during urination
  • A difficulty in obtaining or maintaining an erection
  • Moderate to intense pain during ejaculation
  • Traces of blood in the urine or in semen
  • Moderate to intense recurring pain or stiffness in the low back, hips, or upper thighs

It is also very common that men over 50 years of age will have an enlarged prostate gland due to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) that is a non-cancerous condition.

If you notice or experience any of the symptoms it is imperative that you see your doctor, who will diagnose the problem. Usually, in most instances involving an enlargement of the prostate it is not due to prostate cancer and proper medical treatment can deal with it effectively.

The actual symptoms of prostate cancer are caused when the growth of cells, benign or malignant, begin pressing or pushing against the urethra, which is a thin tube connecting the bladder to the penis. When this happens, you can experience painful urination or ejaculation, notice blood in the urine or semen, and pain in the lower back, hips or thighs.

Some of the symptoms can be caused by infections, but you should see your doctor and be checked. The doctor will do a DRE or digital rectal examination. It is very simple. The doctor will insert a lubricated gloved finger into the rectum to check for an enlarged prostate. Some doctors seem to have incredibly long fingers when they do this. Following this exam, they usually do a blood test to check the PSA (protein specific antigen) and determine if the level is within normal limits or if it is elevated. Depending on the results of these two tests, other tests or procedures maybe necessary.

The PSA and DRE tests, unfortunately, are not 100 % accurate and conclusive, but they do give the doctor some indication if a problem exists. Some of the important things that must be considered are: your current age, your general overall health and your lifestyle. If you are under 50 and are diagnosed with prostate cancer, it could shorten your life, if is not detected early enough. On the other hand, you are over 65 or in relatively poor health, then it is possible that prostate cancer might never become a serious problem to you, because of its slow-growing nature.

The American Cancer Society strongly recommends that men begin to have both the PSA blood test and digital rectal examination every year after turning 50. If you are at a higher risk, because of a family history, the testing should begin at 45.At the present time, the exact causes of prostate cancer are not clear, but there seems to be certain factors that may affect or increase your chances of developing it. Specifically, a family history of prostate cancer and a very fat-rich diet.

If the event the cancer has spread from the prostate or if it is thought that it will spread, then surgical removal of the prostate is usually performed with small parts of the lymphatic system near the gland. With the advancement nerve sparing surgical techniques, this type of surgery eliminates much of the nerve damage that would prevent you from experiencing any sexual problems or having control over urination.  This helps ensure that both the effects on function and quality of life are minimized.

The medical and surgical advancements in prostate cancer surgery now mean that the surgeons are able to successfully remove the prostate gland without causing the once problematic damage to the nerves, which was a major problem in the past. In addition, newer techniques in radiotherapy mean that higher doses can be safely and more efficiently targeted on the prostate. This kills more of the cancer cells and requires fewer treatments. Keep in mind, that sometimes, in the case of older men, the best treatment for prostate cancer is no treatment, especially when it is determined that surgery, radiation or chemotherapy may cause more harm than good.

There is a new treatment method known as prostate brachytherapy. The doctor may choose either permanent seed implantation, where injected radioactive seeds into the prostate will give a low dose of cancer killing radiation over a timeframe of several weeks or months. The injected seeds will remain permanently in the prostate gland.

The other alternative with brachytherapy involves the placement of very tiny plastic catheters within the prostate and then delivering radiation treatments in a series, through the catheters.

It is encouraging to know that the prognosis for sufferers of prostate cancer has improved considerably in recent years. In the last twenty years or so, the survival rate for all of the prostate cancer stages has increased remarkably. Men are able to live significantly longer after they were diagnosed. These facts are the result of early detection programs, an increase in public awareness of prostate cancer symptoms and the practicing or changing to healthier lifestyles.

Find out more about: cancer
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