Prostate Cancer: What Chicagoland Residents Need to Know
What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer affecting men, accounting for close to 30% of new cases. As the name suggests, it originates in the prostate, a gland in males that makes a fluid component of semen. Most prostate cancers are slow-growing, though there are forms that grow — and spread — rapidly. Many men who have died from other causes have been found in autopsy studies to have had prostate cancer without being affected by it… if they or their doctors were even aware of it.
What causes prostate cancer, and who is at risk?
Science does not know exactly what causes prostate cancer. However, researchers have determined that several risk factors may affect a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer, including:
- Age – Risk of developing prostate cancer rises precipitously after age 50. About 60% of prostate cancer is found in men over the age of 65 years.
- Ethnicity – Men of African descent are at greater risk of developing prostate cancer and have a two-fold likelihood of dying from it than Caucasian men. Asian and Hispanic men have less risk.
- Family history – Men whose fathers or brothers have or had prostate cancer have more than double the risk for it, even higher if there are several affected relatives. Still, most men with prostate cancer have no family history of it.
- Gene changes – Genes control how our cells function. In part, cancer can be caused by DNA mutations that affect cell growth. Several specific inherited gene mutations seem to raise risk.
- Other possible risk factors – Factors with less clear effect on risk for prostate cancer include obesity, diet, smoking, chemical exposures, sexually transmitted infections, prostate inflammation and vasectomy.
Screening for prostate cancer can save lives.
A simple blood test, called a PSA test, measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. PSA is an enzyme released by the prostate that is often found in elevated levels in men with prostate cancer. In other words, it could be an indication of the presence of prostate cancer. In a digital rectal exam (DRE), your physician feels the prostate gland for its size and density. If results of either of these tests aren’t normal, further testing is performed to determine definitively if cancer is present. Be sure to discuss screening with your doctor to weigh the benefits and associated risks.
How do doctors diagnose and characterize prostate cancer?
Along with a medical history and physical exam, a PSA test and/or a DRE may lead your doctor to order additional tests, including:
- Transrectal ultrasound – Sound waves converted into images help doctors measure the prostate size and determine PSA density.
- Prostate biopsy – Taking a tiny sample of prostate tissue to send for a pathology report is how doctors definitively diagnose prostate cancer.
- Gleason score… and more – The report from the pathology lab grades prostate cancer according to the Gleason system, which assigns a grade based on how normal (or not) the prostate tissue appears. Other reported information includes the number of samples containing cancer, the percentage of cancer in each sample, and whether the cancer is on one or both sides of the prostate gland.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
For the most part, early stage prostate cancer isn’t accompanied by symptoms. More advanced prostate cancers, however, do sometimes cause symptoms — most of which are shared with other possible problems. These include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Erectile dysfunction
- Spine, rib, hip or other bone pain due to cancer spread
- Numbness or weakness in extremities or loss of bladder control (tumor compressing the spinal cord)
Prostate cancer types and spread.
Nearly all prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas, developing from the gland cells. In fact, there are other forms of prostate cancer — sarcomas, small-cell carcinomas and others — but they are rare. If you have prostate cancer, it’s almost certainly an adenocarcinoma.
Some forms of prostate cancer are slow-growing, and others grow much faster and are more likely to metastasize to other parts of the body. While prostate cancer can theoretically spread anywhere in the body, most metastasis occurs in the lymph nodes and bones.
Treating prostate cancer… or watching and waiting.
If prostate cancer is detected early, the intent of treatment is usually “cure,” eradication of the cancer. Surgery and radiation therapy are the most common treatments. But a common treatment strategy is “watchful waiting,” for prostate cancer that’s believed to be slow-growing and isn’t causing symptoms. If symptoms appear or the rate of cancer growth increases, active treatment will begin.
For prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, other treatments may be recommended, including chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and/or immunotherapy. Relieving pain or other problems related to cancer — known as palliative care — is also an important goal of treatment.
Prostate cancer has excellent relative survival rates.
According to the American Cancer Society, relative survival rates for prostate cancer across all stages of the disease are:
- 5-year relative survival rate………100%
- 10-year…………………………… 98%
- 15-year…………………………… 95%
“Relative survival rate” refers to the likelihood of surviving as long as men in the general population of the same age. The figures above are for all stages of prostate cancer considered together.
Why choose Alpha Med to treat your prostate cancer?
A longstanding cancer-care provider in greater Chicago, Alpha Med Physicians Group provides a uniquely community-based approach to cancer care. We offer the same leading-edge protocols and treatments offered by major cancer centers, but with more independence and focus on your individual needs. Our doctors combine vast experience with state-of-the-art prostate cancer therapies to maximize your longevity and quality of life.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment for prostate cancer surgery in Tinley Park, Homewood, Palos Heights and the greater Chicago area, call 708-928-5040. You can also request an appointment using the easy online form on this page.