What is Prostate Cancer?

Did you know that prostate cancer is now the most common cancer in men in the UK?  This cancer develops slowly, sometimes over a number of years, so there may be no signs or symptoms initially.

What is the prostate?

If you’re a little unsure what this is, the prostate is a small gland in the pelvis.  This is only found in men and surrounds the urethra.

Common symptoms of prostate cancer

As we mentioned above, symptoms of prostate cancer do not usually appear in early stages.  Instead, signs and symptoms are only likely to appear after the prostate is large enough to impact the urethra.  When this happens, you are likely to notice a number of different symptoms including:

  •      An increased urge to urinate
  •      A feeling that you have been unable to fully empty your bladder
  •      A difficult to pass urine

None of the symptoms highlighted above should be ignored.  However, it’s important that we stress these symptoms do not always mean you have cancer.  It is far more likely that they are caused by something else.

Testing for prostate cancer

There is no singular test for prostate cancer.  All of the tests that are used to determine and help diagnose your condition each come with its own set of benefits and risks that should always be discussed with you.

The most common tests used to diagnose prostate cancer are:

  •      A series of blood tests
  •      A physical examination of your prostate
  •      A biopsy
  •      An MRI scan

How is prostate cancer treated?

Early-stage prostate cancer (stages I and II).  Early-stage prostate cancer typically grows very slowly and can take a number of years to cause any symptoms.  This is why active surveillance is often recommended. Radiation therapy or surgery may also be suggested.

What is radiation therapy?

If you’re unfamiliar with this form of treatment, radiation is a strategic use of photons which are used to kill cancer cells. This treatment works by damaging the genetic blueprint of the cancer cell.  This means that the targeted cancer cells die without replicating themselves. This form of treatment is highly effective at treating localised prostate cancer and offers the same cure rate as surgery options.   

EBRT or External Beam Radiation Therapy

This is the most common type of radiation therapy used to treat prostate cancer.  If your radiation oncologist opts to treat your cancer with EBRT, he will use MRIs and CT scans to help map the location of your tumour cells. X-rays are then used to help target these specific areas.  These ‘mapping’ scans can then be used to help create a personalised radiation plan.

Brachytherapy

This form of radiation therapy involves placing special radiation ‘seeds’ inside the prostate that will emit radiation from a close range.  One of the easiest ways to view this form of radiation therapy is internal therapy. Brachytherapy by itself only tends to be used for low-risk patients.  In most cases, it will be used in combination with some form of external beam radiation. You can find more information on radiotherapy options here.

 

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