As frightening a diagnosis of cancer is, some forms of this disease are survivable. In such cases, early detection and treatment are key. One of these so-called “good cancers” is prostate cancer. This is a disease that potentially affects millions of men at a certain time of life. Educating oneself is a good way to ensure a good outcome concerning prostate cancer. So what are some things everyone should know about this disease?
What Is Prostate Cancer, and Who Is Affected by It?
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The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that can become vulnerable to cancer development under certain circumstances. Age can play a large factor. Almost 100% of those who are afflicted with this type of cancer are over age fifty when diagnosed. Genetics and race (black men are more likely to develop this cancer than males of other races) are other circumstances that can affect predisposition to this type of cancer. Diet may have some impact. And while studies are not conclusive, those who have suffered from the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea may be more prone to this cancer type as well.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
While early detection of prostate cancer is vital to a successful outcome, this cancer unfortunately often exhibits no early symptoms that would be noticeable to sufferers. Noticeable symptoms include blood in urine, pelvis pain, and difficulty urinating. As the disease progresses, sufferers may notice lower back pain, or a general feeling of tiredness.
How Prostate Cancer Affects the Body
Like other forms of this disease, this cancer grows as it remains in the body, and can spread to and compromise other body systems. And as with other cancers, the stages of prostate cancer are classified into four distinct types. The stage at which is a sufferer is diagnosed affects both his treatment and his survival odds.
With Stage I prostate cancer, the cancer is just becoming established in the prostate, any tumors are tiny, and their presence won’t be detected with a digital rectum exam (DRE). With Stage II cancer, it has grown enough to be detectable, but not enough to have expanded beyond the prostate and further into the body. The prostate has two lobes, and thusly, this stage can be further broken down. A diagnosis of Stage II (A) means that the cancer has compromised one prostate lobe, while a diagnosis of Stage II (B) means that both prostate lobes have been compromised.
With a Stage III diagnosis, the cancer has just begun to spread beyond the prostate, and hasn’t yet moved on to more distant systems, such as the lymph nodes. And with Stage IV prostate cancer, the cancer has progressed well beyond the boundaries of the prostate or metastasized, and has taken up residence in the body’s lymph nodes, bones, liver, or other organs.
Is Prostate Cancer Survivable?
The stages of prostate cancer have similar survival rates, with the exception of Stage IV. Obviously, a Stage I diagnosis, in which the cancer is just gaining a foothold within the prostate, has the best prognosis, and the least lengthy and invasive treatment plan. But because this stage has to either be deliberately looked for or stumbled upon while being treated or examined for something else, it’s often not found this early. Provided a Stage II sufferer and his health care providers move quickly into a treatment plan, the outcome for Stage II prostate cancer can be good, although a Type B treatment might be a little more involved than a Type A. Again, provided a treatment plan is entered into quickly, a Stage III cancer can be treated successfully. And provided that a Stage IV cancer hasn’t metastasized in distant parts of the body, there is effective treatment for this stage as well.
Cancer specialists don’t consider their patients to be “cured” until they have been cancer free for at least six years. So it’s important to note that when they speak of prostate cancer survival rates, they are referring to how many sufferers can survive for five years after a stage cancer diagnosis. Noting this, and that survival rates are not universal, these rates can be broken down into:
- Local cancer, which reflects a Stage I or II diagnoses. Survival rate is near 100%.
- Regional cancer, which reflects a Stage III or a Stage IV cancer diagnoses that has not spread beyond the lymph nodes. Survival rate is near 100%.
- Distant cancer refers to a Stage IV diagnoses in which the cancer has spread beyond lymph nodes into bones and/or organs. Survival rate is near 28%.
Treatment Plans for Prostate Cancer
The above survival predictions are predicated upon the assumption that an individual will immediately begin medical treatment after receiving a cancer diagnoses. And what are the treatment options for prostate cancer?
Some sufferers want a natural supplement to conventional cancer treatments like drugs and surgery. Diet does appear to have some effect on both the development and treatment of prostate cancer. Diets avoiding processed and red meat and including lots of vegetables and fruits have shown promising results in studies. Likewise, Vitamin D3 and the chemicals and nutrients found in large amounts of pomegranate and tomatoes reduces the risk of and helps treat this type of cancer. But these and any other “alternate medicine” treatments should only be undertaken with the knowledge and assistance of a qualified medical professional.
Conventional Medical Treatment
Treatment options here are dependent upon the stage and progression of the cancer. Less advanced stages might find doctors using methods like hormone or immunotherapy, which uses natural body systems to stop, slow down, or avoid the growth of cancer cells. More advanced cancer stages might call for more advanced treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery.
Can Prostate Cancer Be Avoided?
There is unfortunately no “magic bullet” to prevent one from developing this type of cancer. But men might be able to improve their odds by:
- Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Eating two to three cups of vegetables per day and limiting red meats.
- Avoiding risky sexual contact.
Men over fifty, those of certain racial and ethnic backgrounds, and those who are aware of a family history of this type of cancer should plan on including a DRE as part of their annual medical exam. While this procedure isn’t pleasant, it can be a lifesaving one, and insure a good outcome in dealing with this “good” cancer.