By Dr. Aruna Indika Nandasena
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer prevalent in the world today. While many prostate cancers develop slowly and are confined to the prostate gland where they may not cause serious harm, some other types may prove to be aggressive and spread quickly.
Prostate cancer is classified as a life-threatening disease. In western countries, early detection and effective care have reduced the number of deaths related to prostate cancer. However, in South Asia, the lack of awareness and proper diagnostic facilities has increased the mortality rates linked to prostate cancer.
While men above the age of 60 years are more prone to developing prostate cancer, it is only through early diagnosis and effective treatment that lives can be saved. Since prostate cancer symptoms are similar to those of prostatitis or an enlarged prostate, there is a tendency amongst Sri Lankan adult males to ignore seeking treatment until the disease reaches its advanced stages.
Signs and symptoms
Most prostate cancers usually begin their growth in the outer part of the prostate gland. In order to cause symptoms, the cancer needs to be big enough to press on the urethra.
However, because of the proximity of the prostate gland to the bladder and urethra, this cancer may be accompanied by a variety of urinary symptoms even in its early stages. Depending on its size and location, a tumour may press on and constrict the urethra, inhibiting the flow of urine.
If the cancer metastasizes, individuals might notice a swelling in legs or pelvic area, numbness or pain in the hips, legs or feet, and bone pain that persists or leads to fractures.
Diagnosing and treating prostate cancer
Ultrasound scans, PSA blood tests, MRIs and a biopsy of the prostate gland are the first tools utilised to diagnose prostate cancer, followed by early treatment using new and improved surgical techniques that include keyhole (laparoscopy) surgery.
Reducing your risk
While there’s no single proven way of eliminating one’s risk of getting prostate cancer, individuals can reduce their risk by making healthy choices, such as exercising and being on a healthy diet. A healthy diet is generally one that is low in fat, dairy products, processed food and excessive meat, and full of fruits and vegetables. Coupled with this, individuals should also exercise daily to maintain an ideal Body Mass Index (BMI), as men who are overweight or obese carry a higher risk of developing cancer of the prostate.
Numerous studies have gone on to prove that prostate cancer risk may double for heavy smokers. Smoking is also linked to a higher risk of dying from prostate cancer, and therefore quitting smoking can improve health in a number of ways, including reducing cancer risk.
Finally, caught in its early stages, prostate cancer can be cured and treated with more manageable side effects to patients. However, late diagnosis can lead to many serious effects on the lives of patients and their families. Treatment and care for advanced prostate cancer is also costly and leaves very little quality-of-life benefits for patients. Therefore being informed, regular screening, and getting an early diagnosis is crucial in earning a higher number of years lived with a high quality of life for patients and a reduction in prostate cancer mortality.
(The writer is a Consultant Genito-Urinary Surgeon at Hemas Hospitals Wattala)