Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the prostate.

One of the most commonly disagnosed cancers in the U.S. today, prostate cancer averages more than 185,895 cases annually.

Our team of doctors all practice cutting-edge prostate cancer treatments in our office, as well as all surgery through the most state-of-the-art facility at Hoag Hospital Cancer Center located in Newport Beach, California.

Prostate cancer is a disease in which cancer develops in the prostate - a gland in the male reproductive system. It occurs when cells of the prostate mutate and begin to multiply uncontrollably. These cells may metastasize (spread) from the prostate to other parts of the body, particularly the bones and lymph nodes. Prostate cancer may cause pain, difficulty in urinating, problems during sexual intercourse, erectile dysfunction. Other symptoms can potentially develop during later stages of the disease.

Detection rates of prostate cancers vary widely and occur most frequently in men over the age of fifty. It is one of the most prevalent types of cancer in men. However, many men who develop prostate cancer never have symptoms, undergo no therapy, and eventually die of other causes. This is because cancer of the prostate is, in most cases, slow-growing, and because most of those affected are over the age of 60. Hence, they often die of unrelated causes, such as heart/circulatory disease, pneumonia, other unconnected cancers, or old age.

Many factors, including genetics and diet, have been implicated in the development of prostate cancer. The presence of prostate cancer may be indicated by symptoms, physical examination, prostate specific antigen (PSA), or biopsy. There is concern about the accuracy of the PSA test and its usefulness in screening. Suspected prostate cancer is typically confirmed by taking a biopsy of the prostate and examining it under a microscope. Further tests, such as CT scans and bone scans, may be performed to determine whether prostate cancer has spread.

Treatment options for prostate cancer with intent to cure are primarily surgery and radiation therapy. Other treatments such as hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, proton therapy, cryosurgery, high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) also exist depending on the clinical scenario and desired outcome. Each of our Orange Coast Urology doctors specializes in treating prostate cancer.

The age and underlying health of the man, the extent of metastasis, appearance under the microscope, and response of the cancer to initial treatment are important in determining the outcome of the disease. The decision whether or not to treat localized prostate cancer (a tumor that is contained within the prostate) with curative intent is a patient trade-off between the expected beneficial and harmful effects in terms of patient survival and quality of life.

An important part of evaluating prostate cancer is determining the stage, or how far the cancer has spread. Knowing the stage helps define prognosis and is useful when selecting therapies. The most common system is the four-stage TNM system (abbreviated from Tumor/Nodes/Metastases). Its components include the size of the tumor, the number of involved lymph nodes, and the presence of any other metastases.

The most important distinction made by any staging system is whether or not the cancer is still confined to the prostate. Several tests can be used to look for evidence of spread. These include computed tomography to evaluate spread within the pelvis, bone scans to look for spread to the bones, and endorectal coil magnetic resonance imaging to closely evaluate the prostatic capsule and the seminal vesicles. Bone scans should reveal osteoblastic appearance due to increased bone density in the areas of bone metastasis - opposite to what is found in many other cancers that metastasize.
Symptoms

Early prostate cancer usually causes no symptoms. Often it is diagnosed during the workup for an elevated PSA noticed during a routine checkup. Prostate cancer does cause symptoms, often similar to those of diseases such as benign prostatic hypertrophy. These include frequent urination, increased urination at night, difficulty starting and maintaining a steady stream of urine, blood in the urine, and painful urination.

Prostate cancer is associated with urinary dysfunction as the prostate gland surrounds the prostatic urethra. Changes within the gland therefore directly affect urinary function. Because the vas deferens deposits seminal fluid into the prostatic urethra, and secretions from the prostate gland itself are included in semen content, prostate cancer may also cause problems with sexual function and performance, such as difficulty achieving erection or painful ejaculation.

Advanced prostate cancer can spread to other parts of the body and this may cause additional symptoms. The most common symptom is bone pain, often in the vertebrae (bones of the spine), pelvis or ribs. Spread of cancer into other bones such as the femur is usually to the proximal part of the bone. Prostate cancer in the spine can also compress the spinal cord, causing leg weakness and urinary and fecal incontinence.

CAUSES
The specific causes of prostate cancer remain unknown. A man's risk of developing prostate cancer is related to his age, genetics, race, diet, lifestyle, medications, and other factors. The primary risk factor is age. Prostate cancer is uncommon in men less than 45, but becomes more common with advancing age. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 70. However, many men never know they have prostate cancer.

When a man has symptoms of prostate cancer, or a screening test indicates an increased risk for cancer, more invasive evaluation is offered. The only test which can fully confirm the diagnosis of prostate cancer is a biopsy, the removal of small pieces of the prostate for microscopic examination. However, prior to a biopsy, several other tools may be used to gather more information about the prostate and the urinary tract. Cystoscopy shows the urinary tract from inside the bladder, using a thin, flexible camera tube inserted down the urethra. Transrectal ultrasonography creates a picture of the prostate using sound waves from a probe in the rectum.

BIOPSY
If cancer is suspected, a biopsy is offered. During a biopsy an urologist or radiologist obtains tissue samples from the prostate via the rectum. A biopsy gun inserts and removes special hollow-core needles (usually three-to-six on each side of the prostate) in less than a second. Prostate biopsies are routinely done on an outpatient basis and rarely require hospitalization. Fifty-five percent of men report discomfort during prostate biopsy.

GLEASON SCORE
The tissue samples are then examined under a microscope to determine whether cancer cells are present, and to evaluate the microscopic features (or Gleason score) of any cancer found. Tissue samples can be stained for the presence of PSA and other tumor markers in order to determine the origin of malignant cells that have metastasized.

SCREENING
Prostate cancer screening is an attempt to find unsuspected cancers. Screening tests may lead to more specific follow-up tests such as a biopsy, where small cores of the prostate are removed for closer study. Prostate cancer screening options include the digital rectal exam and the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. Screening for prostate cancer is controversial because it is not clear if the benefits of screening outweigh the risks of follow-up diagnostic tests and cancer treatments.

Prostate cancer is usually a slow-growing cancer, very common among older men. In fact, most prostate cancers never grow to the point where they cause symptoms, and most men with prostate cancer die of other causes before prostate cancer has an impact on their lives. The PSA screening test may detect these small cancers that would never become life threatening. Doing the PSA test in these men may lead to over-diagnosis, including additional testing and treatment. Follow-up tests, such as prostate biopsy, may cause pain, bleeding and infection. Prostate cancer treatments may cause urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. A large randomized study in which 76,000 men were randomized to receive either PSA screening or conventional care found that more men who underwent PSA screening were diagnosed with prostate cancer, but that there was no difference in mortality between the two groups.

The results from two of the largest randomized trials regarding the efficacy of screening have now been published. In one of these trials, the death rate from prostate cancer was actually higher in the group that had total screening compared to the control group which had only normal rates of screening. The other showed some benefit from screening but the reduction in deaths was minor compared to the level of intervention needed to prevent it.

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