Disease,  Preparedness

Prostate Cancer Symptoms: When should I seek help?

Elderly Man Thinking Laptop Prostate

Prostate cancer overview

Prostate Cancer has been under the limelight for quite some time for being the second most common type of cancer in the world and the fifth most type of cancer leading to death in men. The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system and the producer of the seminal fluid. The type of cancer that affects this gland is called Prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer can potentially spread to other parts of the body, particularly the lymph nodes and bones from the prostate gland. Though the spreading process is usually slow, since prostate cancer doesn’t exhibit any visible symptoms in the initial stages of the disease, diagnosis is often delayed and leads to further complications, including death.

The prostate gland is a very vital part of the male reproductive system situated in between the penis and the bladder and performs a number of important functions including the production of the fluid that nourishes and transports the sperms, secretion of the protein that helps in retaining of the fluid state of sperms called the PSA or the Prostate Specific Antigen and also aids in urine control.

The most common causes of prostate cancer are reported to be hereditary, old age, and race apart from lifestyle factors like overconsumption of processed meat, red meat, dairy products, and under consumption of certain vegetables. About 99% of the prostate cancer cases are reported in men over the age of 50. Having an immediate family with the disease is said to increase the risk of prostate cancer to threefold. An average of 1 in every other 9 males is expected to receive a prostate cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, and an average of 1 out of 41 males are at a death risk due to prostate cancer.

A disease called benign prostatic hyperplasia exhibits similar symptoms as that of prostate cancer, and hence, the symptoms of prostate cancer can be sometimes misleading. Initial symptoms of prostate cancer are very difficult to be recognized, thus delays the diagnosis and treatment. During the later stages, it might begin to get difficult for the patients to urinate. Traces of blood can also be noted in the urine apart from the pain in the pelvis and back while passing urine. Gradually the red blood cells count falls and can lead to excessive tiredness.

Symptoms of prostate cancer

Early symptoms

  1. Difficulty in urinating
  2. It gets hard to empty the bladder completely
  3. Urge to urinate frequently, especially during nights
  4. Traces of blood in the urine
  5. Pain or a burning sensation in the back and pelvis while urinating
  6. Blood tinted seminal fluid
  7. Erectile dysfunction (e.g. having difficulty getting and maintaining an erection)
  8. Discomfort due to pain while sitting down
  9. An uncontrolled leak of urine

These are the initial or early symptoms of prostate cancer. These symptoms can be visible due to the enlarged prostate gland, as well. So it is hard to confirm prostate cancer without a proper diagnosis. These symptoms are not necessarily exhibited and can cause a dilemma. So the best option is to consult an oncologist and get the necessary tests done if there is a family history of prostate cancer or if any one of these symptoms is shown.

However, as cancer spreads and reaches its final stages, another set of more complex symptoms are showcased. These symptoms are noted after cancer breaks out from the gland and starts spreading to other parts of the body like lymph nodes and bones.

The major risk factor of prostate cancer apart from family history is an unhealthy lifestyle. An unbalanced diet high on processed meat, red meat, dairy, and other junk food can gradually lead to obesity. Obesity is considered to be a major villain accounting for prostate cancer. Age is another crucial factor. Prostate cancer is very rarely reported in men below the age of 45.

 When should I consult a urologist?

Though the only test that can 100% confirm the presence of prostate cancer is a biopsy, it is not a common test that is performed on the loose. Rather other tests like digital rectal examination (DRE) and cystoscopy are performed to track the rest of the tracts and urinary paths that can give a better idea of the possibility of prostate cancer.

In case these symptoms are exhibited, you need to seek medical help immediately:

  • Excruciating pain or burning sensation in the back, pelvis, hip or other bones
  • Fluid build-up leading to the swelling of feet
  • Rapid weight loss without a reason
  • Improper and irregular bowel movements
  • Unexplained tiredness and fatigue
  • Bone fracture
  • Prostate cancer in the spine can weaken the legs and cause tingling

Medical consultation: What to expect?

Since prostate cancer spreads slowly, during the initial stages, the doctor might just monitor the PSA blood levels and keep track of it. Prostatectomy or the removal of the prostate gland, radiation therapy, brachytherapy, or conformal radiation therapy are the treatments preferred if cancer has not yet spread outside of the prostate gland. In case, the prostate cancer bursts out of the gland, therapies like chemotherapy or hormonal therapy are advised.

Though prostate cancer is a dreaded disease, with proper diagnosis and treatment, it can be tackled effectively. Keeping a close monitor of urine and erectile functions, especially if there is an immediate family diagnosed with the disease and by adopting a healthy lifestyle, can prevent prostate cancer to an extent.

Aaron Gordon is a writer for various CosmoBC.com blogs.

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