What You Need To Know About Prostate Cancer

What is Prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that develops in your prostate. About one in every eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. 

Your prostate is a gland that is the size of a walnut. It's found in front of the rectum, behind the base of the penis, and below the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, which is a tube-like passage that carries semen and urine through the penis. The main function of your prostate is to produce seminal fluid (the liquid in your semen that supports, protects, and helps transport your sperm).

Doctors aren't clear on what causes prostate cancer. They do know it starts when the cells in your prostate develop DNA changes. The DNA of your cells contains instructions that tell each cell what to do. These DNA changes instruct your cells to grow and divide quicker than your normal cells. And, these abnormal cells continue to live when other cells would normally die. 

As the abnormal cells accumulate, they form a tumor that could start growing and invading neighboring tissue. After some time, some of the abnormal cells could break away and metastasize (spread) to other areas of your body.

Learn about the types of prostate cancer, their stages, and how they are diagnosed.

Symptoms

As with any cancer, early diagnosis of prostate cancer should be your chief goal. Fortunately, there are many signs and symptoms, although not necessarily in the earliest stages of the disease. The reason for this becomes clear when you understand that there are up to five different types of prostate cancer.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology released guidelines stating that testing for prostate cancer should start at age 45. This is because many men in their 20s and 30s do not yet have any major symptoms. 

However, even if you are over the age of 50 and don't display any symptoms, it's still important to realize that your chance of developing this disease increases over time.

A number of signs and symptoms could indicate that you have prostate cancer. Some of these include: 

Urinary challenges

The prostate gland is located beneath the bladder, and it's near the urethra, too. As the tumor increases in size, it may press on these organs, causing urinary challenges. These may include:

  • Frequent urination

  • Low-flow urine

  • Hematuria (bloody urine)

Pain and numbness 

Once prostate cancer begins to metastasize, you may feel pain or numbness in the rectum, groin area, testicles, and penis. If it enters the bones, you may also feel pain in the back and chest.

Sexual problems

Prostate cancer may also impact your sexual experience. If you notice blood in the semen, it may indicate you have the condition, and treatment is necessary. If left to develop, it may cause erectile dysfunction, affecting your ability to get or maintain an erection. None of these is an indication of prostate cancer and only prostate cancer. Therefore, you cannot diagnose prostate cancer and its level without tests your doctor can perform.

Learn more about the symptoms and early warning signs of prostate cancer.

Causes

Generally, the cause of prostate cancer is not easy to pinpoint, and there may be several.

However, what's common is that cancerous cells begin growing due to changes in your genetic makeup. As the cells grow and divide into other cells, they form the tumor.

Several factors can lead to the growth of cancerous cells in your prostate. They include:

  • Genetics

  • Diet

  • Age 

  • Race

  • Geographical location

  • Smoking 

  • Obesity

Learn more about the role these factors play in the development of prostate cancer. 

Treatments

After a prostate cancer diagnosis, you'll need to start thinking about your treatment options. Your medical team will discuss these options with you and advise you on which they'd recommend based on your current condition and type of cancer.

These options may include one or more standard prostate cancer treatments as well as clinical trials. The most common treatment options include: 

  • Active surveillance and watchful waiting, which monitors cancer in its early stages and starts medical intervention only when the cancer begins to spread or impact your quality of life

  • Radiation therapy, using high-energy x-rays or radioactive particles to destroy cancer cells

  • Immunotherapy, which uses your body's immune response to target and destroy cancer cells. 

  • Chemotherapy, which are cancer-killing drugs taken orally or via an infusion

  • Hormone therapy to suppress the male androgen hormones, which promote the growth of prostate cancer cells

  • Surgery to remove the prostate as well as other parts of the body affected by the cancer

Surgery is the most common treatment option and has a very high rate of success. Many men who undergo a prostatectomy require no further treatment for prostate cancer. It may not be the best option for every patient, though, especially if the cancer has begun to spread.

Choosing a prostate cancer treatment option is a very personal decision. You should take time to understand your diagnosis as well as which treatment options are available to you.

Then take time to research the potential benefits and drawbacks of those options. Ask your oncology team about the recovery times, side effects, costs, and possible outcomes of each prostate cancer treatment option before you make your decision.

Learn more about prostate cancer treatment options.

Prevention

While most causes are beyond your control, it doesn't mean you can't do anything to help protect yourself from developing prostate cancer. 

Living a healthy lifestyle by eating foods good for the prostate, such as ripe tomatoes and other red fruits, consuming more green vegetables, and drinking moderate amounts of green tea and coffee, may help reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer.

At the same time, try to avoid foods that may increase your risk of prostate cancer, including fish oil (Omega-3 fatty acids), folate supplements, and some dairy products. 

However, it's important to note that the research around the link between these foods and prostate cancer isn’t conclusive, so it’s always best to speak with your doctor before making major changes to your diet. 

Avoid smoking since it increases the risk of prostate cancer returning after you enter remission. And try to exercise regularly to maintain healthy body weight. Obesity or being overweight may lead to an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer. 

Certain medications may also help prevent prostate cancer from developing. 

Drugs such as the 5-Alpha reductase inhibitors may help curb the enlargement of the prostate and reduce the risk of prostate cancer. 

Learn about reducing your risk of developing prostate cancer.

Awareness

Prostate cancer awareness has led to significant, positive shifts in outcomes over the last several years. This is due in no small part to the untiring advocacy work of five leading charitable organizations and foundations:

  1. The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF)

  2. Us TOO

  3. ZERO Cancer

  4. The Prostate Conditions Education Council (PCEC)

  5. The Prostate Cancer Research Institute (PCRI)

The PCRI introduced Prostate Cancer Awareness Week as part of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month each September.

From the 1st to the 30th of September, you can engage in several fundraising activities, including spreading the word about healthy foods, upcoming clinical trials, and helpful resources.

You can also attend educational events and volunteer at programs such as run/walks and screening sign-ups.

Learn more about Prostate Awareness Week and available prostate cancer support.

Costs

A prostate cancer diagnosis is life-changing, stressful, and expensive. It brings about tough decisions like choosing your preferred initial treatment and medical provider. You also have to understand the associated costs to plan your budget and determine the help and support you need.  

Prostate cancer costs for diagnosis, treatment, and care vary depending on multiple factors. Among them: the stage and grade of your prostate cancer, the required specialized care, and the availability of your insurance cover. 

On average, prostate cancer treatment costs around $2,800 per month. But you must factor in hidden costs, like those associated with doctor's visits, treatment procedures, medications, travel expenses, and long-term care. 

Healthcare insurance helps cover most prostate cancer costs, depending on whether the treatment is inpatient or outpatient.

Medicare also covers screening and substantial preventive measures. However, it doesn’t include adult daycare, medical food, assisted living services, and more. 

You can, however, help offset the out-of-pocket expenses of prostate cancer care.

Statistics

The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers prostate cancer as the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer globally outside skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men across the planet. 

One in every eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives. Studies also show that the prevalence of prostate cancer increases with age, meaning the older you get, the greater the risk of developing it. 

Experts expect the number of men over 65 years with prostate cancer to increase fourfold across the world between 2000 and 2050.  

See more statistics about prostate cancer, including survival rates relative to age and cancer stage. 

Doctors & specialists

If you receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer, the main types of physicians you'll see are:

  • Urologist: This is a surgeon who treats the male reproductive system (including prostate) and urinary system diseases.

  • Medical oncologist: A physician who provides cancer treatment with medicines like hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.

  • Radiation oncologist: A physician who provides radiation therapy to treat cancer.

You might have other specialists involved in your care, such as nurses, nurse practitioners, rehabilitation specialists, nutritionists, social workers, and other healthcare professionals.

Learn about the treatment options for prostate cancer to better understand the kind of medical care you may need.



Clinical trials for prostate cancer

Actively recruiting
Testing the Effectiveness of Two Immunotherapy Drugs (Nivolumab and Ipilimumab) With One Anti-cancer Targeted Drug (Cabozantinib) for Rare Genitourinary Tumors
AK, AL, AR, AZ and 35 more locations (US)
Actively recruiting
Radiation Therapy in Treating Patients With Stage II Prostate Cancer
AZ, CA, CO, DE and 35 more locations (US)
Actively recruiting
A Clinical Study Evaluating The Benefit of Adding Rucaparib to Enzalutamide for Men With Metastatic Prostate Cancer That Has Become Resistant To Testosterone-Deprivation Therapy
AK, AR, AZ, CA and 26 more locations (US)

Medications for prostate cancer