Prostate Cancer: Information and Options from the RCCA Team
What is prostate cancer?
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in American men. It is typically a slow-growing cancer, but some forms can grow and spread quickly. Prostate cancer occurs in the prostate; a gland found only in men. Located below the bladder and in front of the rectum, the prostate produces a portion of the fluid in semen.
In 2017, the American Cancer Society projects:
- More than 161,300 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed
- Roughly 26,730 men will die from prostate cancer
Living past the diagnosis; surviving prostate cancer
Thanks to continuing research, early detection and advanced treatments, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer can survive it. In fact, more than 2.9 million men in the U.S. who received a prostate cancer diagnosis at some point are living today.
Additionally, the American Cancer Society lists relative survival rates for prostate cancer across all stages of the disease as follows:
- 5-year relative survival rate……. 100%
- 10-year…………………………… 98%
- 15-year…………………………… 95%
The term, “relative survival rate” refers to the likelihood of surviving given that men in the general population are of the same age.
The most common risk factors for prostate cancer
Certain factors can increase the risk of prostate cancer, including:
- Age – About 6 cases in 10 are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is considered rare before the age of 40.
- Race/ethnicity – African-American men are at higher risk than Caucasian men. Caucasian men are at higher risk than Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino men.
- Family history – Even though most patients with prostate cancer have no family history of it, research shows that men who have a father or brother with prostate cancer face a heightened risk of developing the disease. The risk is even higher for men with several affected relatives, especially if the relatives were diagnosed at a young age.
- Gene changes – Some inherited gene changes can affect the risk of prostate cancer, including mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 (more so BRCA1). Men with Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary non–polyposis colorectal cancer), a condition caused by inherited gene changes, are at an increased risk for certain cancers, including prostate cancer.
- Other possible risk factors – Some sources link prostate canlcer to factors such as nutritional habits, exposure to certain chemicals and sexually transmitted diseases. However, these connections are not clear and are the focus of ongoing research.
Prostate cancer screening and detection
Prostate cancer can often be found before symptoms start with the following tests:
- Blood test – Measures the levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. The prostate releases PSA, which is often found in elevated levels in men with prostate cancer.
- Digital rectal exam (DRE) – The doctor feels the prostate gland’s size and density through the rectum.
If these tests raise concerns, additional evaluations may be recommended, including:
- Transrectal ultrasound – Converts sound waves into images to help the doctors measure the prostate size and determine PSA density.
- Prostate biopsy – A small sample of prostate tissue is collected and sent for a pathology report to confirm or deny the presence of cancer.
- Gleason score – The Gleason system assigns a grade (score) to indicate how normal or abnormal the prostate tissue appears.
The symptoms of prostate cancer
Prostate cancer often has no early symptoms. But as the disease progresses, men often experience:
- Problems urinating (which can also indicate other benign conditions)
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Erectile dysfunction
- Pain in the hips, back or spine
Types and stages of prostate cancer
The majority of prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that produce and release mucus and other fluids). Non-adenocarcinoma forms of prostate cancer do exist — which are sarcomas, small-cell carcinomas and others — but they are rare.
The stage of prostate cancer informs the doctor’s recommendation for the most effective treatment. The most widely used staging system for prostate cancer is the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) of TNM categories, which applies five key pieces of information for prostate cancer:
- The size of the primary tumor (T category)
- Whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes (N category)
- Whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body (M category)
- The PSA level at the time of diagnosis
- The Gleason score, based on a prostate biopsy or surgery
Leading-edge, comprehensive prostate cancer treatments
At RCCA, we often combine therapies and drugs, or prescribe a series of treatments in a phased approach, in order to achieve the best possible outcome for you. These treatments include:
- Targeted Therapy
- Radiation Therapy
- Clinical Trials
- Genetic Testing
- Palliative Care
- Integrative Care
- Hormone therapy
- Vaccine treatment
- Bone-directed treatment
For many men, active surveillance, or watchful waiting, may be appropriate. This approach is applied if the cancer seems to be growing very slowly, and age or health renders you a poor candidate for other treatments.
Highly specialized, completely personalized prostate cancer care is nearby.
Compassion, experience and commitment. These are the qualities the oncologists, registered nurses and teams of mind/body support specialists hold true. They know that treating you as a whole person is just as important as expertise and credentials. And perhaps best of all, excellent care is where you are: With more than 30 locations throughout New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland, RCCA makes your care convenient and accessible.