Prostate cancer: Pay attention to any body changes

Monday November 11 2019

Chances that cancer will be detected early

Chances that cancer will be detected early greatly depends on having regular medical checkups and paying attention to any changes in the body. Shutter Image 

By PAUL MURUNGI

Prostate cancer is on the rise. 2018 Cancer statistics from the Uganda Cancer Institute show that prostate cancer registered 2086 cases and that 1177 men died of the same disease last year.

According to the Prostate Cancer Information, Education and Communication Booklet from the Uganda Cancer Institute, detecting and treating prostate cancer early can improve a man’s chance of full recovery.

The booklet points out that the risk of prostate cancer increases with age, especially after the age of 50.

More than 80 per cent of prostate cancers are diagnosed in men who are 65 years or older.

About 85 per cent of Prostate cancer tends to grow or progress slowly compared to most other cancers. Cell changes may begin 10, 20, or even 30 years before the persons develops symptoms of the cancer. By the time a person suffering from prostate cancer develops symptoms, the cancer may already be advanced.

Risk factors
Dr Noleb Mugisha an oncologist at the Uganda Cancer Institute says risk factors for prostate cancer include: Age especially after 50 years, genetic changes, family history, insulin factor growth as a result of obesity and uncontrolled diabetes. Also, diet is known to have influence on prostate cancer growth.

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Men who eat red meat and high fat dairy products appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer.

Signs and symptoms include
Difficulty in passing urine, frequent urge to pass urine especially at night, weak or interrupted urine stream, pain or burning when passing urine, blood in the urine or semen, painful ejaculation, pain in the back, hips, or pelvis, lower back bone pain.

Screening
Dr Mugisha says it is advisable for men aged 40 years and above to go for cancer screening.

“Chances that cancer will be detected early greatly depends on having regular medical checkups and paying attention to any changes in the body. This is because cancer can be detected during a physical exam or with routine tests, even when there are no symptoms yet,” Dr Mugisha says.

The prostate cancer booklet indicates that the recommendation by an oncologist to have a screening test is based on the individual.

The doctor takes into account the person’s age, medical history and general health, family history and lifestyle. This information assists the doctor in determining a person’s risk for developing prostate cancer.

To confirm prostate cancer, a prostate biopsy is done which involves the surgical removal of a small piece of tissue from the prostate gland for microscopic examination. A positive result suggests prostate cancer.

Stages
Prostate cancer can present itself in four stages. The first stage is a cancerous tumor found to be limited to the organ of origin. The second stage indicates spread of the cancer tumor to the surrounding tissues; the third stage shows an extensive growth of the primary tumor and possibly other organ involvement. And stage four indicates spread of cancer beyond the prostate gland to other organs and systems of the body away from the original tumor site.

Treatment
Prostate cancer treatment depends on the situation.

The UCI prostate booklet suggests that treatment starts with active surveillance or watchful wait.

Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer usually present with mild form of prostate cancer and therefore, the doctor may advise watchful waiting or active surveillance.

During the watchful wait, a patient receives regular follow-up to monitor tumors. While prostate cancer patients who present with aggressive form requires urgent treatment.
Prostate cancer grows at a slow pace, average doubling time of the prostate tumor is quite slow (2-4 years).

Immediate treatment may constitute over-treatment and introduce unnecessary urinary and potency risks.

Dr Mugisha suggest four treatment options which include; surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy.

Surgery involves the removal of the cancerous tumor and possibly the removal of surrounding tissue and lymph nodes near the tumor. Surgery is most effective when the cancer is still confined to its original site and when the tumor can be completely removed.

Chemotherapy
It is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Most patients receive chemotherapy by mouth or through a vein. It is a systemic treatment, meaning that the drugs flow through the bloodstream to nearly every part of the body.

Chemotherapy primarily works by attacking cells that divide and grow rapidly, such as cancer cells. The doctor may use one drug or a combination of drugs.

Radiotherapy
This involves use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing and dividing. There are two forms of radiation: external and internal. External radiation comes from a machine outside the body.

With internal radiation, radioactive material is sealed in a container such as needles and tubes and placed directly in or near the tumor. Radiation is a local treatment; it can only affect cancer cells in that area where it is placed or directed.

Hormone therapy
Hormone therapy is used against certain cancers that depend on hormones for their growth.
Prostate cancer depends on hormones such as natural substances produced in the body to grow.
Prostate cancer cells are dependent on androgens (male sex hormones) for survival and growth.
Removal of androgens kills a majority of prostate cancer cells. This treatment may involve using drugs that stop the production of hormones, or that change the way the hormones work in the body.

Another type of hormone therapy is to remove organs such as testicles that make the hormones.

Side effects include: Men may experience impotence, loss of sexual desire, and breast growth or tenderness. Patients need to discuss these and other side effects with their doctor.

Myths about prostate cancer
Myth- High levels of sexual activity or frequent ejaculation cause prostate cancer”
Answer- This is not true. In fact, some studies show that men who report more frequent ejaculations may have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer

Myth-Prostate enlargement means prostate cancer”
Answer- This is not true. Apart from prostate cancer, there are other conditions that present with symptoms similar to that of prostate cancer.

“A man will develop prostate cancer only if his father had prostate cancer” Answer- Not exactly, but if a man had a father or brother with prostate cancer, his possibility of developing prostate cancer is higher than someone who doesn’t have this history.

“Use of cell phones and putting cell phones in the pocket cause Prostate cancer”
Answer-No, according to the current studies conducted so far. Cancer is caused by genetic mutations, and cell phones emit a type of low-frequency energy that does not damage genes.

Myth- Herbal products can cure prostate cancer”
Answer- No. Although some studies some herbs, may help patients cope with the side effects of cancer treatment, no herbal products have been shown to be effective for treating cancer. In fact, some herbal products may be harmful when taken during cancer treatment.

Source: Cancer Information, Education and Communication Booklet

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