prostate cancer

What are the Benefits of Prostate Cancer Screening and Early Detection?

Prostate cancer remains one of the most prevalent forms of cancer among men globally, making early detection paramount in improving treatment outcomes and overall survival rates. While controversy surrounds the effectiveness of prostate cancer screening, its benefits cannot be overlooked. Here, we delve into the significant advantages of prostate cancer screening and early detection.

What is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate Cancer:

Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the prostate gland, which is a part of the male reproductive system. The exact cause of cancer is not fully understood, but several factors can increase the risk, including age, family history, race (more common in African-American men), and certain genetic mutations.

Symptoms:

Symptoms of prostate cancer can include:

  1. Difficulty urinating
  2. Weak or interrupted urine flow
  3. Frequent urination, especially at night
  4. Blood in the urine or semen
  5. Pain or discomfort in the pelvic area
  6. Erectile dysfunction
  7. Bone pain (if the cancer has spread to the bones)

Risk factor:

Here are some risk factors for cancer:

  1. Age: The biggest risk factor for prostate cancer is age. Men over 50 are more likely to get prostate cancer than younger men.
  2. Race: African American men are more likely to get prostate cancer than men of other races.
  3. Family history: If you have a father or brother with prostate cancer, you are at an increased risk of getting the disease. The risk is even higher if more than one family member has had prostate cancer.
  4. Genes: Some genes increase your risk of getting prostate cancer. These genes are passed down from parents to children.
  5. Diet: A diet high in red meat and processed meats may increase your risk of prostate cancer. A diet high in fruits and vegetables may decrease your risk.
  6. Obesity: Obesity may increase your risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer.
  7. Certain occupations: Firefighters and some other workers who are exposed to certain chemicals may have an increased risk of prostate cancer.

It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that you will get prostate cancer. Many men with risk factors never get the disease.

What are different stages of prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is staged based on the extent to which the cancer has spread. The most common staging system used is the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM staging system. This system takes into account three main factors:

  1. T (tumor): The size and extent of the primary tumor in the prostate.
  2. N (node): Whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  3. M (metastasis): Whether the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body.

Each of these categories is assigned a number (0 to 4) based on the severity of the cancer. Higher numbers indicate a more advanced stage of cancer.

AJCC stages:

Here is a breakdown of the AJCC stages of prostate cancer:

  1. Stage I:The cancer is confined to the prostate gland and is too small to be felt during a digital rectal exam (DRE) or seen on imaging tests. PSA levels are typically low.
  2. Stage II: The cancer is still confined to the prostate gland, but it may be larger than stage I cancer and may be felt during a DRE. PSA levels may be higher than in stage I.
  3. Stage III: The cancer has spread outside the prostate gland, but it has not spread to distant lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
  4. Stage IV: The cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes or other parts of the body, such as the bones.

It is important to note that the AJCC staging system is just one way to classify prostate cancer. Other factors, such as the Gleason score (which measures how aggressive the cancer cells are) and the PSA level, are also important in determining a man’s prognosis and treatment options.

Why early Screening and Detection of prostate cancer is important?

Importance:

  1. Improved Survival Rates: Early detection through screening allows for timely intervention, increasing the likelihood of successful treatment outcomes. When prostate cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, before it has spread beyond the prostate gland, the chances of survival are significantly higher.
  2. Tailored Treatment Options: Screening enables healthcare providers to identify the stage and aggressiveness of the cancer, facilitating the selection of appropriate treatment strategies tailored to the individual patient. This personalized approach can lead to more effective treatment plans and better quality of life post-treatment.
  3. Reduced Morbidity and Mortality: By detecting prostate cancer at an early stage, screening helps prevent the progression of the disease to more advanced and potentially life-threatening stages. This translates to reduced morbidity and mortality rates among men diagnosed with cancer.
  4. Minimized Treatment Side Effects: Early detection allows for less aggressive treatment options, which may result in fewer side effects and complications. For instance, men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer may opt for active surveillance or minimally invasive treatments like brachytherapy or focal therapy, sparing them from the adverse effects associated with radical treatments.
  5. Empowerment Through Knowledge: Prostate cancer screening empowers men with valuable information about their health status, enabling them to make informed decisions regarding their care and lifestyle choices. Awareness of one’s cancer risk encourages proactive health-seeking behaviors and adherence to recommended screening guidelines.
  6. Opportunity for Risk Reduction Strategies: Screening identifies individuals at higher risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer, allowing for the implementation of risk reduction strategies such as lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, and pharmacological interventions. Early detection provides a window of opportunity to intervene and potentially prevent the onset or progression of the disease.
  7. Family Health Awareness: Positive prostate cancer screening results may prompt discussions within families about genetic predispositions and familial cancer risks. This increased awareness can lead to proactive screening among relatives and early detection of cancer in other family members, thereby potentially saving lives through preventive measures.
  8. Advancements in Research and Treatment: The data collected through prostate cancer screening programs contribute to ongoing research efforts aimed at improving diagnostic techniques, treatment modalities, and overall outcomes for men with cancer. Early detection initiatives fuel innovation in the field, driving progress towards more effective therapies and precision medicine approaches.

What is treatment for prostate cancer?

Treatment:

Treatment for prostate cancer depends on several factors, including the stage of the cancer, your age and overall health, and your preferences. Here are some of the common treatments:

Active surveillance or watchful waiting:

Active surveillance and watchful waiting are two approaches doctors may recommend for certain men diagnosed with early-stage.  They involve monitoring the cancer rather than immediately starting treatment.

  1. Active surveillance involves close monitoring of the cancer with regular tests, such as prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests, digital rectal exams (DREs), and biopsies. If the cancer shows signs of growing or becoming more aggressive, then treatment can be started.
  2. Watchful waiting is a less intensive approach than active surveillance. It involves monitoring the cancer with fewer tests, typically only PSA blood tests and DREs, done less often. Treatment is only started if the man develops symptoms from the cancer.

Who is it for?

  1. Men with low-risk prostate cancer, younger men, or men with other health conditions
  2. Older men or men with other serious health conditions

Benefits:

  1. Avoid the side effects of treatment, such as impotence, urinary incontinence, and bowel problems.
  2. May allow some men to avoid treatment altogether, if the cancer grows very slowly or not at all.

Risks factor:

  1. The cancer may grow and spread during the monitoring period.
  2. Anxiety from not knowing if the cancer is getting worse.
  3. The need for more biopsies.

Candidate for active surveillance or watchful waiting:

These approaches are not for everyone.  The best candidates are men with:

  1. Early-stage prostate cancer
  2. Slow-growing cancer
  3. Small tumor
  4. No symptoms
  5. A long life expectancy (at least 10 years)
  6. Other health conditions that make them poor candidates for surgery or radiation

Surgery:

Surgery is a common treatment for prostate cancer, especially for early-stage cancer that hasn’t spread to other parts of the body. The main type of surgery for prostate cancer is a radical prostatectomy, which involves removing the entire prostate gland and some of the surrounding tissue. There are two main ways to perform a radical prostatectomy:

  1. Open radical prostatectomy: The surgeon makes a single incision in the lower abdomen to remove the prostate and nearby tissues.
  2. Laparoscopic radical prostatectomy: The surgeon makes several small incisions in the abdomen and inserts long, thin surgical tools to remove the prostate and nearby tissues. Robotic-assisted surgery is a type of laparoscopic surgery that uses robotic arms to assist the surgeon.

Types:

Other types of surgery that may be used to treat prostate cancer include:

  1. Radical perineal prostatectomy: The surgeon makes an incision between the scrotum and the anus to remove the prostate.
  2. Pelvic lymph node dissection: The surgeon removes lymph nodes from the pelvis to see if the cancer has spread.
  3. Cryosurgery: The surgeon freezes the prostate tissue to kill cancer cells.
  4. High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU): The surgeon uses sound waves to heat and destroy prostate cancer cells.

Surgery for prostate cancer can be a very effective treatment, but it can also have side effects.

Side effects:

Some of the most common side effects include:

  1. Urinary incontinence (leakage of urine)
  2. Erectile dysfunction (difficulty getting or keeping an erection)
  3. Bleeding
  4. Infection

Radiation therapy:

Radiation therapy is a common treatment for prostate cancer that uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.

Types :

There are two main types of radiation therapy for prostate cancer:

  1. External beam radiation therapy (EBRT):This type of radiation therapy delivers radiation from a machine outside the body to the prostate gland.
  2. Brachytherapy: This type of radiation therapy involves placing radioactive seeds inside the prostate gland. The seeds release radiation over time, killing cancer cells.

Radiation therapy can be used to treat prostate cancer in various stages. It may be used as the primary treatment for early-stage cancer, or it may be used in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or hormone therapy, for more advanced cancer. Radiation therapy can also be used to relieve symptoms of prostate cancer, such as bone pain.

Hormone therapy:

Hormone therapy, also known as androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), is a treatment for prostate cancer that reduces the levels of male hormones, called androgens, in the body. Androgens, particularly testosterone, can fuel the growth of prostate cancer cells. By lowering androgen levels, hormone therapy can slow or stop the growth of prostate cancer.

Different ways:

There are two main ways to reduce androgen levels for prostate cancer treatment:

  1. Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists: These are medications that are given as injections or implants under the skin. They work by blocking the signals from the brain to the testicles to produce testosterone.
  2. Antiandrogens: These are medications that block the action of testosterone at the cellular level. They can be taken as pills or given as injections.

Uses:

Hormone therapy may be used in different stages of prostate cancer treatment:

  1. As the primary treatment for advanced prostate cancer: When surgery or radiation therapy is not an option, hormone therapy can be used to shrink tumors and relieve symptoms.
  2. Before or after radiation therapy: Hormone therapy can be used to shrink tumors before radiation therapy, making radiation treatment more effective. It can also be used after radiation therapy to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.
  3. After surgery to remove the prostate: Hormone therapy may be used after surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back, especially if the cancer was at high risk of recurring.

Hormone therapy can cause side effects, such as hot flashes, fatigue, weight gain, and decreased libido. These side effects can be uncomfortable, but there are treatments available to help manage them.

Chemotherapy:

Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. It’s a common treatment for metastatic or advanced prostate cancer, which means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Chemotherapy drugs typically circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream,  attacking cancer cells wherever they are.  This is different from surgery or radiation therapy, which target cancer cells in a specific area.

Uses:

Chemotherapy is not usually used to treat early stage prostate cancer. But it may be used in some cases, such as:

  1. After surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.
  2. Along with hormone therapy to shrink the cancer or relieve symptoms.
  3. When hormone therapy no longer works (hormone-resistant prostate cancer).

The decision of whether or not to use chemotherapy for prostate cancer will depend on several factors, including the stage and grade of the cancer, the person’s overall health, and their preferences.

Side effects:

Here are some of the common side effects of chemotherapy for prostate cancer:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Hair loss
  3. Nausea and vomiting
  4. Mouth sores
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Increased risk of infection
  7. Easy bruising and bleeding

These side effects can vary depending on the type and dose of chemotherapy drugs used. There are medications and other treatments that can help to manage many of these side effects.

Immunotherapy:

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps the body’s immune system recognize and destroy cancer cells. It’s a promising area of research for prostate cancer treatment, especially for metastatic cancer.

Options:

There is currently one FDA-approved immunotherapy option for prostate cancer:

Sipuleucel-T (Provenge) is a cell-based immunotherapy vaccine used for men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) that is asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic. It works by taking a patient’s white blood cells, activating them in a lab to target prostate cancer cells, and then infusing them back into the patient. This process is repeated a few times. The goal is to stimulate the immune system to fight the cancer cells. Sipuleucel-T does not lower PSA levels, treat symptoms, or delay disease progression, but it has been shown to prolong life expectancy in some men

Targeted therapy:

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment for prostate cancer that attacks cancer cells specifically, rather than harming healthy cells throughout the body. This approach is often referred to as precision medicine because it tailors treatment to the unique genetic makeup of a person’s cancer.

Types:

There are two main types of targeted therapies currently approved for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC):

  1. PARP inhibitors: These drugs block the PARP proteins, which help cancer cells repair their DNA. When PARP is inhibited, cancer cells with damaged DNA are more likely to die. PARP inhibitors are only effective for tumors with mutations in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
  2. PSMA-targeted therapy: PSMA (prostate-specific membrane antigen) is a protein that is overexpressed on cancer cells. PSMA-targeted therapy uses a radioactive molecule that attaches to PSMA, delivering radiation directly to the cancer cells. This treatment is less likely to harm healthy tissues than traditional radiation therapy.

Targeted therapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as hormone therapy or chemotherapy. It is typically used for men with advanced stage that has spread beyond the prostate or that no longer responds to hormone therapy.

Benefits of targeted therapy:

  1. More precise than traditional therapies, leading to fewer side effects
  2. May be effective for cancers that do not respond to other treatments

Potential side effects of targeted therapy:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Nausea
  3. Vomiting
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Low blood cell counts

Targeted therapy is a promising approach for treating prostate cancer. As research continues, more targeted therapies are likely to be developed in the future.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the benefits of prostate cancer screening and early detection are undeniable. From improved survival rates and tailored treatment options to reduced morbidity and mortality, screening plays a crucial role in mitigating the impact of  cancer on men’s health. Embracing screening guidelines and fostering awareness are essential steps towards reducing the burden on individuals, families, and society as a whole.

FAQ’s:

Can prostate cancer be cured?

Prostate cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, especially when it’s caught early.  Many men who receive treatment for it go on to live long, healthy lives.

The success of treatment depends on the stage of the cancer when it’s diagnosed. Early-stage prostate cancer is usually confined to the prostate gland.  If cancer is found early, there’s a good chance it can be cured with surgery or radiation therapy.

Factors:

Here are some factors that affect the curability:

  1. The stage (extent) of the cancer
  2. The grade (aggressiveness) of the cancer
  3. Your overall health

If prostate cancer has spread beyond the prostate, it’s usually not considered curable. But treatment can help control the cancer and improve your quality of life.

Is prostate cancer painful?

Prostate cancer itself typically doesn’t cause pain in its early stages.  In fact, many men with cancer have no symptoms at all.

Painful areas:

However, some men with advanced stage may experience pain in the following areas:

  1. Pelvis
  2. Lower back
  3. Hips
  4. Thighs
  5. Ribs
  6. Upper thighs
  7. This pain is caused by the cancer spreading to the bones.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis. Early detection and treatment is essential for improving the chances of a successful outcome.

What is the life expectancy for prostate cancer?

It’s important to understand that  life expectancy for prostate cancer depends on a variety of factors, including the stage of the cancer at diagnosis, a man’s age and overall health, and how well treatment works.

The good news is that prostate cancer is often a slow-growing cancer, and many men with cancer can live for many years with the disease.  In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year relative survival rate is 97% . This means that men diagnosed with cancer are 97% as likely as men without it to live for at least 5 years after their diagnosis.

Survival rates:

Here’s a breakdown of survival rates by stage:

  1. Localized prostate cancer (cancer that has not spread outside the prostate gland): The 5-year relative survival rate for localized prostate cancer is nearly 100%.
  2. Regional prostate cancer (cancer that has spread to nearby lymph nodes): The 5-year relative survival rate for regional prostate cancer is also very high, at around 98%.
  3. Distant prostate cancer (cancer that has spread to other parts of the body): The 5-year relative survival rate for distant prostate cancer is lower, at around 32%.

 

+ posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *