Prostate cancer is a type of malignant tumor that occurs in the prostate which is located in men below the bladder and near the rectum. The prostate is responsible for the production of a fluid expelled with sperm during ejaculation, called semen. It is a common disease among older men and is the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer in the United States. Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the nation.

Development and Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is rare among men younger than 40; most patients are older than 65. Family history and race are also risk factors associated with the disease.

The exact reasons for the development of prostate cancer are not fully understood, but the cancer’s very presence effects both the urinary and reproductive systems. Symptoms of prostate cancer include painful urination, difficulty starting or stopping the urine stream, or dribbling of urine; pain while urinating or ejaculating; erectile dysfunction; and weakness or numbness in the limbs.

Because the incidence of prostate cancer is high among older men, men who experience any symptom should see a doctor right away. Regular physical examinations will include prostate screening.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH),  prostate cancer diagnosis includes a digital rectal exam to feel the prostate for lumps or anything unusual. A blood test may be ordered to detect prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The tests are also used for prostate cancer screening, which looks for cancer before symptoms are evident. Abnormal screens will lead to more tests that will likely include an ultrasound, MRI or biopsy.

Evolution and Stages of Prostate Cancer

There are several staging systems in the evolution of prostate cancer. The steps are key in helping physicians determine the most appropriate treatment for each patient. Patients can also learn from prostate cancer staging about the spread of the disease through the body, and life expectancy.

The most common staging system is divided into stage 1, Stage 2, stage 3 and stage 4. The stages are used to communicate how fast the cancer grows, what tissues are affected, and are defined based on  prostate biopsy results (Gleason score), the PSA level, and other exams or tests.

In stage 1, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the tumor can not be felt or seen by the doctor but can be detected in an imaging test such as transrectal ultrasound, during a transurethral resection or diagnosed by needle biopsy done for a high PSA. The cancer is still within the prostate and has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body. The Gleason score is 6 or less and the PSA level is less than 10.

In stage 2, the tumor can be felt by digital rectal exam or seen with imaging such as transrectal ultrasound, and is contained in one half or less of only one side of the prostate. The cancer is still within the prostate and has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body. The Gleason score is 6 or less and the PSA level is less than 10.

Stage 3 refers to cancer that has spread beyond the prostate and may affect the seminal vesicles, but not the nearby lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body.

Stage 4 prostate cancer refers to cancer growth into tissues next to the prostate (other than the seminal vesicles), such as the urethral sphincter (muscle that helps control urination), rectum, bladder, and or the wall of the pelvis. The cancer has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body. The tumor can have any Gleason score and the PSA can be any value.

Treatment for Prostate Cancer and Life Expectancy

There are many types of treatment for patients with prostate cancer.

In cases of early detection, physicians may opt to wait and watch before prescribing a course of action.

The most common treatment options are surgery, radiation therapy, cryosurgery (cryotherapy), hormone therapy, chemotherapy, vaccine treatment, and bone-directed treatment.

Patients may also consider alternative and complementary medicine (ACM). The choice of treatment depends on the patient’s age and expected lifespan, other severe health conditions, the tumor’s stage and grade, whether there is a need to treat the cancer right away, likelihood that each type of treatment will cure cancer, and the possible side effects from each treatment.

The five-year survival rate for most men with prostate cancer is 99 percent; 98 percent live past 10 years, and 95 percent live for 15 years and beyond. For men diagnosed with prostate cancer that spread to other parts of the body, the five-year survival rate drops to 28%.

Routine screening for early detection should be part of every man’s health regimen.

Note: Prostate Cancer News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.