Common symptoms of prostate cancer
The prostate gland is responsible for producing some fluid of the semen and controlling urination in men. Prostate cancer is accountable for affecting the prostate gland. The gland is located right below the bladder and in front of the rectum. In advanced cases, it can spread to nearby organs to the prostate, most notably the bladder. It is the most common cancer among men in the United States. Early detection of the prostate cancer is treatable while advanced stages might get fatal.
Regular testing is important to complete diagnostics before it hits the metastasis phase, i.e. when it starts spreading to other body parts. The prostate cancer symptoms are divided into two groups – early prostate cancer symptoms and advanced prostate cancer symptoms. Prostate cancer is treated differently at different stages. Before discussing the treatment, let’s have a brief introduction of the different stages.
Prostate cancer stages
Prostate cancer is divided into four stages, and each has a different treatment approach. The extent of spread and size of tumor decides what stage of cancer it is.
- Stage I
In the very first stage of prostate cancer, the tumor is non-detectable by physical examination and imaging tests. At this stage, cancer hasn’t spread out of the prostate. The discovery rate of cancer at this stage is around 80%, and the 5-year survival rate is almost 100%.
- Stage II
In stage II, cells have a higher Gleason score and a faster growth rate. It is still undetectable using physical examination or imaging tests. Cancer hasn’t yet spread outside the prostate.
- Stage 3
During stage III of prostate cancer, it spreads beyond the prostate and affects nearby seminal vesicles. As with local stage prostate cancer, the 5-year survival rate is about 100%.
- Stage 4
Stage IV is the final and more severe stage of prostate cancer. In this stage, cancer spreads to various body parts, including bones, bladder, lymph nodes, lungs, and liver, in addition to the prostate. The 5-year survival rate is a mere 29% at this stage.
Prostate cancer – Symptoms
During the early stages of prostate cancer, there are no specific symptoms. Symptoms usually develop during later stages of cancer. The symptoms of prostate cancer patients experience might vary in intermediate stages and aggressive stages.
Early prostate cancer symptoms
- A frequent urge to urinate
- Blood during urination
- Difficulty in urinating
- Painful urination and sometimes ejaculation
- Difficulty in achieving and maintaining an erection
Advanced prostate cancer symptoms
- Bone fractures
- Bone pain, often in the femur, pelvis, ribs, and spine
- Fecal/urinary incontinence
- Leg weakness
Treatment is different for early (Stage I and Stage II) and advanced (Stage III and Stage IV) stages of prostate cancer.
Early stage prostate cancer treatment
Treatment recommendations in different cases will depend on the specific case with medical history. Before the treatment, the doctor will discuss all available options with the patient. In early stages of prostate cancer treatment, patients might receive a combination of hormone therapy and radiation therapy for about 4 to 6 months. When the cancer is small in size and localized, it is treated by means of:
- Monitoring or watchful waiting – For the slowly developing cancer, immediate treatment might yield undesired side effects. Hence, PSA blood levels are regularly checked.
- Radical prostatectomy – The affected prostate is surgically removed using radical prostatectomy. Robotic keyhole surgery allows for a shorter duration of hospitalization, as well as fast recovery. However, it is more expensive than a traditional surgery that requires about three months of the recovery period and 10 days of hospitalization.
- Brachytherapy – Radioactive seeds are used to deliver targeted radiation treatment by means of an implant in the prostate.
- Conformal radiation therapy – It minimizes healthy tissue exposure to radiation. Radiation beams are configured in a way so that the region where they overlap at is similar to the shape of the affected region.
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy – It is an advanced form of conformal radiation therapy.
Advanced stage prostate cancer treatment
Advanced stages of cancer are more aggressive and spread throughout the body. The patient might most likely require long-term hormone therapy. Unlike the early stages of prostate cancer, radical prostatectomy can’t be used in advanced stages, as it doesn’t treat cancer spread to other parts of the body. Participating in clinical trials is an alternative to no-effect hormone therapy. However, doctor consultation is important for doing so. Typical cases of advanced stage prostate cancer are treated by means of:
- Chemotherapy – Used for killing/eliminating cancer cells around the body
- Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT) – Androgens are male hormones that can stimulate cancer growth. It is an androgen suppression therapy, assisting in reducing the effects of androgen.