by: Seth Miller
The prostrate is a gland found only in males and located in front of the rectum, on the neck of the bladder. It is a walnut-sized gland about 3 cm in size that encircles the urethra. The prostrate produces seminal fluids and, along with the sperm received from the testes, releases the semen into the urethra during ejaculation. It also prevents the semen from flowing back into the bladder.
Prostrate cancer starts quite late in life; the number of persons who have prostrate cancer but are dying of other causes is large. One in 6 American males is likely to get prostrate cancer but only one in 32 dies of it.
The cause of prostrate cancer is not known. There are some known risk factors, none of which are controllable. Old age is the prime risk factor. The percentage of white Americans is less than the blacks who have this cancer. Hispanics come next and Asians and Native Americans are the least affected. So obviously, race is another risk factor. Hereditary is the third risk factor, when prostrate cancer runs in the family.
A person may have this cancer and not know it for quite some time. Digital Rectal Examinations (DRE), as part of a regular check-up, may be able to detect an enlarged Prostrate and lead to further investigation. Symptoms are experienced late in the progress of the disease. They include difficulty in starting and ending urination, frequent and weak urination or painful and burning urination. Impotence and painful ejaculation are other symptoms of this cancer. The initial DRE may be followed by other diagnostic tests, like the Prostratic Specific Antigen (PSA) test, CT scan, X-ray and cystoscopy. A biopsy has to be done to determine whether a tumor is benign or cancerous.
The prognosis of prostrate cancer depends on the stage in which it is detected. If the cancer is within the gland capsule, Radical prostatectomy or removing the prostrate with some surrounding tissues has a very high success rate. Radiation therapy and hormonal therapy are the other options. These therapies may have side effects that may not be acceptable, particularly to aged persons.
The patient and doctor have to make an informed decision, considering the disease stage, side effects of treatment, condition of the patient, speed of growth of the cancer and other factors, to determine which line of treatment to follow.
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