Prostate Problem Guide
Prostate Cancer - Are Men Their Own Worst Enemy?
Skin cancer is the commonest form of cancer in the United States today but, to the surprise of many people, prostate cancer is the second most frequently seen form of cancer resulting in approximately 30,000 deaths every year. So what is prostate cancer?
The body begins its life as a single cell which divides repeatedly to create new cells. As cell division continues so the newly formed cells, acting as the building blocks of the body, form themselves into walls of tissue creating the various parts that we recognize as the human body. However, this is not the end of the process as, during the course of our lives, our bodies change continuously as old cells wear out and die and other newer cells continue the process of division to replace them.
From time to time however this process of division does not follow its normal pattern and a cell divides incorrectly, forming two cells which do not carry the information needed for the cells to function normally. At the same time this can set off a chain reaction so that these cells in turn begin to divide, forming further faulty cells.
In simple terms, this is the basis of all cancers and, where faulty cell division takes place in the prostate gland, then the result is prostate cancer.
The prostate gland, which is roughly the same size as a walnut, is situated between the bladder and the rectum and partially surrounds the urethra (the tube carrying urine from the bladder). The main function of the prostate gland is to produce and store a clear fluid which makes up about a third of male semen.
Despite the fact that we tend to think of cancer whenever the prostate is mentioned, there are in fact many problems that can affect the prostate gland, most of which can be treated quite easily.
Prostate cancer is rarely seen in men below the age of 40 and, although cases are seen between the ages of 40 and 65, the majority of prostate cancer cases arise in men over the age of 65.
In many cases the progress of the disease is slow and early stage prostate cancer is usually accompanied by few if any noticeable symptoms. For this reason many men suffer from prostate cancer for years before it is diagnosed. Indeed the average age at which a diagnosis of prostate cancer is made in the United States is presently 70.
When detected in its early stages prostate cancer can be successfully treated either by surgery or radiation therapy and, while such treatment can often leave its mark in terms of ongoing problems with urination or a degradation or loss of sexual function, the cancer is often permanently eradicated.
Problems arise when prostate cancer is more advanced at the time of diagnosis and has already spread into neighboring tissue and bone, or has migrated to other parts of the body, usually being carried through the lymphatic system. In this case a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and hormone therapy can certainly help to treat the problem but the cancer will often reappear.
Possibly the greatest problem lies in the fact that, in terms of their general health and sexual health in particular, men traditionally suffer in silence and only venture into the doctor's surgery when they feel that they are at death's door.
Fortunately this is beginning to change, even if only slowly, and as a growing number of men now turn to their doctor when they first suspect that something is wrong, rather than waiting until they know something is wrong. This means that we are starting to see earlier diagnosis of prostate cancer which may result in fewer deaths every year from this treatable disease.