Although prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, aside from skin cancer, it can often be treated successfully. Prostate cancer can affect your life in many different ways depending on your symptoms and the type of treatment required.
Cancer can begin in any part of the body. It develops when abnormal cells in a specific part of the body reproduce and grow uncontrollably and begin to crowd out normal cells. The cancerous cells then invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue and organs. Sometimes, cancer cells can also spread to other areas – this process is called metastasis. Prostate cancer begins when the cells in the prostate gland start to grow uncontrollably, but it often grows very slowly.
The prostate is a small, walnut sized organ found only in males, located below the bladder. Its main function is to produce the thick, milky fluid in semen that nourishes and protects sperm. The muscles of the prostate gland ensure semen is expelled outwards during ejaculation allowing the sperm cells to fertilize a female’s egg. The prostate usually grows in size as a man gets older.
Because prostate cancer often grows very slowly, many men can have it for years without any symptoms. Those with low-risk prostate cancer, that has not spread beyond the prostate gland and isn’t causing any symptoms, may not require treatment, but instead have regular observations by a doctor to monitor the cancer’s progress.
Treatment For Prostate Cancer
Men with low-risk prostate cancer that does not require treatment may receive either active surveillance or observation (watchful waiting) of the cancer. Active surveillance aims to avoid unnecessary treatment if the cancer is harmless. It involves closely monitoring the cancer with regular prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests every 6 months and a digital rectal exam at least once a year to check for any signs of progression. A biopsy and imaging tests may also be carried out every 1-3 years.
Observation can be less intensive and mean fewer tests with monitoring of symptoms to decide if and when treatment is required. Some men may not be comfortable with observation or active surveillance alone, in case the cancer grows and spreads, which can limit treatment options or affect the chances of treating it successfully. For others, it delays any negative treatment-related side effects.
If cancer is not thought to have spread outside of the prostate gland, surgery may be recommended to remove it. A radical prostatectomy is the main type of surgery and involves removing the entire prostate gland along with some of the surrounding tissue.
Hormone therapy does not cure prostate cancer but may be recommended to reduce levels of male hormones in the body, known as androgens, to stop them from stimulating the cancer cells. The main androgens are testosterone and dihydrotestosterone.
Depending on the stage of cancer, along with other factors, radiation therapy may be recommended. It uses beams of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and is often a choice if the cancer is low grade or has not spread to other parts of the body. It may also be recommended after surgery to ensure no cancer cells are left behind.
Prostate cancer and certain treatments can cause bladder problems. This can include a sudden urge to urinate, not being able to urinate when you want to, leaking between trips to the bathroom, or a weak stream. These side effects may only be temporary and may go away soon after treatment, or your doctor may prescribe medication, a catheter, or even surgery to control the problem. Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles may also be beneficial.
Prostate Cancer And Erectile Dysfunction
Although prostate cancer in itself is not a cause of erectile dysfunction, certain treatments for the disease can cause it. Surgery to remove the prostate gland, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy can all contribute to the inability to achieve or sustain an erection, making sexual intercourse difficult.
Erectile dysfunction may only be temporary depending on the cause and type of prostate cancer treatment being administered. If your symptoms last longer, your doctor may recommend medication, injections, shockwave therapy, a vacuum device, or a penile implant to treat erectile dysfunction.
Men’s Health In Edmonds, Washington
At Affirm Clinic in Edmonds, Washington, we are dedicated to helping men restore their virility and health. We treat all types of men’s health issues, including prostate cancer. Our goal is to help you lead a happier and healthier life.
To learn more about our services or to arrange a private consultation, call us at (206) 231-6000. You can also complete our convenient online appointment request form.