Prostate Cancer Often Successfully Treated

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There is good news about prostate cancer. It is one of the most common cancers men develop (the American Cancer Society says about one man in seven will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime), but it is often treated successfully, especially when detected early, still confined to the prostate.


The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that makes some of the fluid that is part of semen. According to the Mayo Clinic, prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in the early stages. As it advances, you may experience trouble urinating, see blood in the semen, have pain in the pelvic area and struggle with erectile dysfunction. Factors that can increase your risk of developing prostate cancer include being older (over age 50 years), African American and having a family history of prostate or breast cancer.


Your physician may opt to perform a prostate screening if you have any risk factors. In a digital rectal exam (DRE), your doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to examine your prostate for any abnormalities in texture, shape or size. With a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, a blood sample is drawn and analyzed for PSA, a substance the prostate gland produces naturally. It is normal to find a small amount of PSA in the bloodstream. A higher than normal level may indicate prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement or cancer.

Treatment depends on what stage the cancer is at when it is discovered. Your options include active surveillance – keeping an eye on the prostate and having regular PSA tests, DREs and possibly biopsies – especially if the cancer is at a very early stage. Active surveillance is generally for cancer that is expected to grow very slowly, is confined to a small area of the prostate and is not currently causing symptoms.


Another treatment option is external radiation therapy, which uses high-powered energy beams such as X-rays or protons to kill cancer cells. With brachytherapy, small radioactive seeds are placed directly in your prostate tissue. The seeds deliver a low dose of radiation over a long period of time. You can expect to experience side effects such as painful, frequent or urgent urination and erectile dysfunction.


Hormone therapy is a fourth type of treatment frequently used for prostate cancer. It incorporates medications that stop your body from producing testosterone, on which cancer cells rely to help them grow. Hormone therapy is used mainly in

PROSTATE CANCER OFTEN SUCCESSFULLY TREATED

men with advanced prostate cancer to shrink the cancer and slow the growth of tumors. Side effects may include erectile dysfunction, hot flashes and a reduced sex drive. You may also choose to undergo prostatectomy – removal of the prostate gland.


Be sure to discuss your concerns about prostate cancer and possible treatment protocols with your primary care physician or urologist.


In the meantime, adopt healthy lifestyle changes – regular exercise, eating a healthy balanced diet, forgoing smoking and limiting alcoholic beverage intake – that may not only protect you from prostate cancer but improve your overall wellness and life expectancy.

DR. KEITH APPLEGATE, FAAFP

Dr. Keith Applegate co-founded Family Practice Associates of Lexington in 1987. Dr. Applegate’s objective is “to have a helpful and rewarding doctor- patient relationship that results in a healthier you.

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