Men's Health

Prostate Cancer


FACTS             OVERVIEW             TESTING             TREATMENT             RESOURCES AND SUPPORT GROUPS

THE HAIRY FACTS




OVERVIEW

What is the prostate?

Function

  • Gland producing fluid that protects and enriches sperm
Location
  • Immediately below the bladder, in front of the bowels. 
  • The prostate is doughnut shaped and surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out through the penis.
  • In younger men the prostate is about the size of a walnut. 
  • The nerves that control erections surround the prostate. 

What is prostate cancer?
  • Prostate cancer occurs when some of the cells in the prostate reproduce far more rapidly than normal, resulting in a tumor. 
  • If left untreated, prostate cancer cells may eventually spread from the prostate and invade distant parts of the body, particularly the lymph nodes and bones, producing secondary tumors in a process known as metastasis. 
  • One of the most worrying aspects of the disease is that most prostate cancers develop without men experiencing any symptoms in the early stages.

What are the risk factors?
  • Gender: prostate cancer only affects men, as women do not have a prostate gland.
  • Age: the older a man, the more likely he is to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. More than 65% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.
  • Family History: a man with a father or brother who developed prostate cancer before 60 is twice as likely to develop the cancer.
  • Ethnicity: African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer and are nearly 2.5 times as likely to die from the disease.
  • Lifestyle: poor diet and lack of exercise.
 
What are possible symptoms?
Note: the majority of prostate cancers have no symptoms, and it is really only advanced cancers that have spread throughout the prostate (and beyond) that cause urinary symptoms such as:
  • Urinary issues (slow flow, hesitancy, frequency, urgency)
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Reduced ability to get an erection
  • Painful ejaculation
 
If you have any concerns and are experiencing any of the symptoms above it is important to contact your doctor and note that these symptoms are also common to many different conditions, not just prostate cancer.



TESTING

What tests are available?
The purpose of testing is to detect prostate cancer at its earliest stages, before the disease progresses. 
There are currently two common tests available for initial detection:
  • Physical Examination (DRE: Digital Rectal Exam)
  • Blood Test (PSA: Prostate Specific Antigen)


 
The PSA blood test (PSA)

The PSA blood test looks for the presence of a protein in the blood that is produced specifically by prostate cells called Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). The presence of an elevated PSA does not necessarily mean prostate cancer is present as there are other medical conditions that can lead to a PSA result outside the normal range. These include enlargement of the prostate (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or BPH) and inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis).
 
The Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)

The DRE involves the doctor inserting a gloved finger in the anus, where it is possible to feel part of the surface of the prostate. Irregularities include swelling or hardening of the prostate, or lumps on the surface that may indicate development of a tumor or other problems. The drawback to this test is that the doctor can feel only part of the prostate during the examination, so some irregularities may be beyond reach and therefore missed.
 
Results
If the results of the test are abnormal, your doctor might refer you to a specialist (i.e. Urologist) to take a tissue sample in the form of a biopsy. A biopsy is the only way to determine if cancer is present. A doctor typically diagnoses prostate cancer after closely examining biopsy cells through a microscope and will inform you of the results.
 
To test or not to test?
Our recommendation is to discuss your situation with your doctor to decide if testing is right for you. Together, you can choose the best course of action. As an aid to having this conversation, we worked with the Société Internationale d'Urologie on a tool to help men and their families navigate the decision making process:



Download the PSA overview here.



TREATMENT

Newly Diagnosed
If you or someone you know has just been diagnosed with prostate cancer you may be experiencing a number of feelings; disbelief, fear, anger, anxiety and depression. There are many treatment options and support resources that can help you and your family through this difficult time and on toward a normal, healthy life.
 
Dealing with a new prostate cancer diagnosis
  • Educate yourself about prostate cancer and the available treatments to relieve some of the anxiety and stress caused by diagnosis.
  • Be an empowered patient and feel comfortable getting a second opinion.
  • Be prepared with a list of questions for your doctor.
  • Bring along your partner, a family member or friend for support and an objective observer who can help translate what occurred and what information has been offered in the doctor’s office.
 
Visit the PROSTATE CANCER FOUNDATION website for extensive information on a new diagnosis.
Download the LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION'S GUIDE on what next steps to take after a cancer diagnosis.
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the message is don’t panic. Many prostate cancers are slow growing and may not need surgery or other radical treatment. Active surveillance (regular monitoring) is now a common treatment option for men with low risk, low grade prostate cancer. Take the time to learn about the various treatment options mentioned below and make an informed decision about what to do by seeking advice from medical professionals and from reputable sources such as the Prostate Cancer Foundation
 
Remember also that because a side effect of treatment includes erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer can have a serious impact on intimate relationships. As many people who have been through the journey will tell you, prostate cancer isn’t just a man’s disease, it’s a couple’s disease. Make sure you involve your partner as you think through the various treatment options. THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION has information on the practical and emotional implications of fighting a cancer diagnosis.
 
Your decision-making process will likely include a combination of clinical and psychological factors, including:
  • The need for therapy
  • Your level of risk
  • Your personal circumstances
  • Your desire for a certain therapy based on risks, benefits, and your intuition
 
Treatment Options

Active Surveillance

  • Many prostate cancers are slow growing and may not need surgery or other radical treatment
  • Active surveillance (which is regular monitoring) is now a common treatment option for men with low risk, low grade prostate cancer

  • During active surveillance, prostate cancer is carefully monitored for signs of progression- these tumors can be safely watched through regular PSA tests and biopsies to ensure that they do not progress
  • Click here for more information on active surveillance

Prostatectomy

  • A surgical approach to treating prostate cancer is the removal of the prostate gland 
  • Depending on the stage of cancer, typically, men with early-stage disease or cancer that’s confined to the prostate will undergo radical prostatectomy – removal of the entire prostate gland, plus some surrounding tissue 
  • Advances in surgical technique allow men to stay in the hospital one to two nights on average
  • Other surgical procedures may be performed on men with advanced or recurrent disease
  • Click here for more information on prostatectomy

Radiation Therapy

  • Radiation therapy involves the use of various types of X-rays (radiation) to treat cancer

 
  • Click here for more information on Radiation therapy.



Hormone Therapy

  • Prostate cancer cells are like other living organisms, meaning they need fuel to grow and survive
  • The hormone testosterone serves as the main fuel for prostate cancer cell growth so it is a common target for therapeutic intervention in men with the disease

  • Hormone therapy, also known as androgen-deprivation therapy or ADT, is designed to stop testosterone from being released or to prevent it from acting on the prostate cells. Although hormone therapy plays an important role in men with advancing prostate cancer, it is increasingly being used before, during, or after local treatment as well

  • Click here for more information on hormone therapy




Side Effects of Treatment

Many of the most common side effects of treatment for prostate cancer are manageable:
  • Incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine)
  • Erectile dysfunction (difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection)- the prostate is situated just under the bladder and is surrounded by the nerves that control erections, which is why surgery, radiotherapy and other treatments commonly cause these side effects at least temporarily
  • Weight gain – due to hormone therapy 
  • Click here for more information on the side effects of prostate cancer treatment
  • If the problems don’t go away there are now many medical and surgical treatments available to manage incontinence and erectile dysfunction



RESOURCES

Our health partners publish a series of helpful guides and additional resources to help connect men and their loved ones to the latest prostate cancer research and survivorship information
Click here to find out more about Movember’s funded programs on prostate cancer.




To request a copy of our references, please contact references@movember.com.