Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is a cancer disease that can develop in a man’s prostate gland. This gland is located under the man’s urinary bladder, and through it passes the urethra and sperm duct. The gland is the size of a walnut. The man’s prostate produces a fluid which is released with the man’s sperm during ejaculation, and this fluid helps transport the sperm up into the uterus of the woman.  

Cancer in the prostate is one of the most frequent types of cancer in men, but it rarely occurs before the age of 50. The number of annual cases of prostate cancer has been increasing over the past decades. This tendency, however, is presumably not a sign of more people developing prostate cancer, but rather that more cases are detected as the disease has become easier to diagnose. In 2014, prostate cancer was showed to be the most common cancer type in men in the UK with more than 46,000 diagnosed cases.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

If there is cancer in the prostate, the prostate will often have grown larger than its normal size. Usually, the prostate gland grows in the outer parts of the gland, where there is plenty of space. Because of this, the growth rarely results in any significant changes, which means that several decades may pass before the disease reveals itself. Many men suffer from an enlarged prostate without being affected by cancer as the prostate gland usually grows in much of a man’s life anyway.

The growth is stimulated by the male sex hormone of testosterone. The testosterone production does not decrease with age in men, and therefore the prostate gland normally continues to grow throughout life. This can cause symptoms from the urinary system due to pressure on the urethra from the enlarged prostate gland. Symptoms of prostate cancer are therefore similar to those of a benign enlarged prostate. Symptoms, which many men experience with age, which can both be signs of a benign enlarged prostate and prostate cancer include:

  • Frequent urination urge
  • Problems holding in the urine
  • Poor urine flow

If you develop these symptoms over a brief period, especially in the forties and fifties, it can indicate a cancer disease. Here, it is recommended that you consult your GP. Other symptoms, which are more specific to prostate cancer are:

  • Blood in the urine or sperm
  • Cystitis
  • Reduced sperm amount
  • Persistent pain
  • Trouble urinating
  • Erectile dysfunction

What are the causes of prostate cancer?

Cancer is a disease that can develop in all of the body’s organs. The disease develops due to a harmful change in the cell’s genetic material, also known as DNA. This change causes the cell to divide itself uncontrollably, thereby forming a tumour in the organ, consisting of abnormal cells with malignant abilities.

These abilities enable the cell to divide itself frequently, to invade nearby tissue and to spread to remote organs. It has not yet been established why prostate cancer is such a frequent disease. Changes in the cell’s DNA can occur by coincidence but can also be the result of external influences. In relation to this, researchers have found a connection between an increased risk of developing prostate cancer and factors, such as diet, overweight, nightwork and certain chemicals i.e. cadmium and arson. It is also believed that about 10 % of all cases of cancer are due to hereditary conditions.

What are the treatments for prostate cancer?

Not all cases of prostate cancer need treatment. This is because some cases can be relatively benign, as they are small and slow-growing, and therefore not a health threat. Treating prostate cancer involves the risk of side effects that can be more problematic than the disease itself. In these cases, the patient will be offered regular screenings for observation of the disease development, to ensure that the disease does not suddenly develop into a more malignant form, thus requiring treatment. The treatment of prostate cancer varies , and it depends on each individual case, but it often involves medicine, surgery or radiation therapy. If the cancer has not spread, there is a greater chance that the radiation treatment or surgery can cure the patient.

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