The prostate is a crucial part of the male reproductive system. It is a rubbery accessory gland located behind the penis and the rectum. Its main function is to produce seminal fluid. Seminal fluid creates a healthy and optimal environment for the sperm to survive. What should you expect if it becomes cancerous?
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, after skin cancer. Prostate cancer is not a death sentence. Especially if caught early, the damage is minimal and the treatment is highly successful. The high prevalence of prostate cancer makes it a priority in scientific research. This creates an ease of access to great medical tourism.
Prostate cancer types can vary in shape, size, and structure. They’re classified according to the type of cells they’re made of, lymph node involvement, and if there’s any metastasis. Depending on what type you have, prognosis and life expectancy can vary. Fortunately, the most common types are easily treatable. Prostate cancer can be classified as:
The word adeno traces back to greek origins. Back in those days, it meant “acorn” and later became “gland”. Adenocarcinomas are cancers growing inside glands anywhere in the body. If there’s growth in a gland inside the prostate, it’s called prostatic adenocarcinoma.
There are 2 types of prostatic adenocarcinoma:
- Acinar adenocarcinoma
- Prostatic ductal adenocarcinoma
Acinar adenocarcinoma is the most common type of prostate cancer. It develops from the acinar cells lining the prostate. The main difference between those 2 types is the production of Prostate-specific antigen (PSA). PSA is produced naturally and found in trace amounts in the sperm and blood. Its increase indicates an increase in prostatic cellular activity which helps in diagnosis.
Acinar adenocarcinoma produces PSA while the ductal subtype does not. This makes prostatic ductal carcinoma harder to detect. Ductal adenocarcinoma is the more aggressive subtype but is fortunately rare.
There are many other variations and types of prostate cancer. They vary in how they act and the prognosis for each type can vary a lot. Compared to adenocarcinoma, all the other types are exceedingly rare. A quick summary of the other subtypes includes:
- Small cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Prostate sarcoma
- Transitional cell carcinoma
- Neuroendocrine tumors
Symptoms are highly variable from person to person. Some men might not experience any symptoms at all. Generally, what you should be aware of is the following:
- Difficult urination
- Frequent urination
- Inability to fully empty the bladder
- An interrupted flow of urine
- Sudden erectile dysfunction
- Pain during urination
- Discomfort while sitting
These symptoms can but do not necessarily indicate the diagnosis of prostate cancer. The diagnosis of prostate cancer relies on a couple of techniques to rule out all other possibilities. Your doctor can perform a digital rectal exam (DRE), CT scan, PSA blood test, and a rectal biopsy. These tests with related symptoms can help your doctor be sure of cancer and what type it might be.
Prostate glands can have other diseases that could have similar symptoms to prostate cancer. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a great example. It is a common enlargement of the prostate over the age of 40. The cell growth in BPH is not cancerous and does not affect the risk of getting prostate cancer. However, the symptoms of BPH can be easily confused with prostate cancer.
Another condition can be prostatitis. Prostatitis is the inflammation of the prostate. Its causes and treatment are completely different but it can cause an increase in PSA.
It is generally recommended for men to start screening tests for prostate between ages 40 to 54. This would help ensure early detection of any possible disease. Early detection is always a good indicator of successful treatment.
Treatment of prostate cancer is based on the severity of the case. Treatment options depend on the type of cancer, stage of cancer, possible side effects, and the patient’s overall health preferences. Patients need to ask their doctor as many questions as they feel like. Take the time to learn about the treatment options provided for your case. Treatment options are categorized as local and systemic.
Local treatments can be either surgical, radiation-based, or a mix of both.
Surgery’s main goal would be to remove the prostate with some of the surrounding structures to decrease the risk of recurrence. The type of surgery depends on the state of the patient. Before surgery, the doctor must discuss possible side effects from the surgery and future expectations for recovery. The types of surgeries include:
- Open prostatectomy
- Laparoscopic prostatectomy
- Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP)
Radiation therapy uses radiation beams to induce apoptosis of cancer cells. Apoptosis is the death of the cell. Therapy with radiation modalities contains several different treatments in a set amount of time. Those modalities include:
- External beam radiation therapy
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy
- Proton therapy
Systemic treatment involves the use of medication to treat cancer. These include a set of different medications that are usually administered through an intravenous route directly to the bloodstream. They can also come in oral form. These medications are designed to dilute inside the blood and spread throughout the whole body, targeting cancer cells as much as possible. Types of systemic medications include:
- Hormone therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Bone modifying drugs
A person may be prescribed one type at a time or multiple different types of treatment. Discuss with your doctor the possible side effects and how to manage them short and long term.
There are hospitals specializing in prostate cancer treatment. You can use medical tourism services to help you determine the best possible route of treatment that suits your exact needs.
Written by Natalia Volvak