Prostate Cancer - A Case for Early Detection

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Prostate Cancer, it seems, is one of the most common forms of cancer in men. Some of the platitudes served up in hopes of calming your fears, are just plain dumb. Things like "More men die with prostate cancer than from it" or "It's one of the best cancers to get-it's so slow growing". NONSENSE. Cancer is cancer and NONE of it is good. A positive diagnosis always hits hard, especially if cancer has never been a factor in your family medical history.

It is recommended that males reaching the age of fifty should have a 'PSA' (Prostate-Specific Antigen) test on an annual basis. The 'PSA' test can be affected by a number of internal factors and is NOT a definitive indication that prostate cancer is present. An increase in 'PSA' level should simply act as a red flag that further tests might be advantageous.

On the upside, further testing can show the presence of Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), which is an enlargement of the prostate. Both can normally be treated with prescriptions.

On the downside, further tests may show the presence of cancer. A 'PSA' reading of 4 or less is usually acceptable to most doctors. Any significant jump in 'PSA' level should trigger additional tests.

One such test is known as a Trans Rectal Ultrasound. This test lasts approximately 25 minutes and consists of the insertion of a special camera into a part of the body designed for the expulsion of those portions of our food not required by the body. The camera is attached to a computer screen, allowing the doctor to visually examine the prostate and has an opening through which is inserted a spring-loaded rod. This enables him to take a tissue sample directly from the prostate (a biopsy), which is then analyzed in a lab for the presence of cancer. Be advised-it sounds a lot worse than it actually is-NOT at all painful, but yes, not comfortable and probably mostly embarrassing. However, it can be a lifesaver.

Results normally arrive within 10 days and can vary. Good news--no cancer. Really bad news--cancer that has erupted from the prostate and is spilling cancer cells into the blood stream.

However, there can be good news and bad news--cancer is present, but it is still contained within the prostate, and this is the main thrust of this article.

At this point, specialists become involved, usually a Radiologist and a Urologist. Do not assume that either one will lay out all possible treatment options available to you for your situation.

The Radiologist will present options involving radiation as a treatment for your cancer. There are several available and the intensity usually depends on the stage your cancer has reached at the time of diagnosis. Discuss these in detail, making sure you are made aware of the possible side effects of each. Some involve surgery some do not.

The Urologist will outline your situation and the procedures involved in the surgical removal of the prostate. Should you opt for this procedure, find a Urologist capable of performing "nerve sparing" surgery.

Nerve sparing surgery is very delicate and involves the stimulation of the nerves that control bladder and sexual functions so as to locate them where they surround the prostate. Once located, they can be shaved away from the prostate before it is removed. Even with the nerves only saved on one side, the prognosis for recovery of full bladder control and upwards of 75% of sexual function is excellent. This is not the case if the prostate is simply removed.

Some Recommendations:

1. When you reach 50, have an annual 'PSA' test
2. If there is a family history, start at 40 (or earlier)
3. Depending on where you live, there may be a fee. PAY IT. The investment is worth it if you value living
4. If not satisfied with initial recommendations, get another opinion (or a third)
5. Get complete information before making a decision. What treatments are available? What side effects are possible? What results can be expected?
6. Ask any and all questions you can think of
7. Share your diagnosis with family and close friends. This support group can ease your tensions considerably. If you are not comfortable with this, support groups consisting of survivors and others with the same diagnosis are available in many communities.

Prostate cancer, if undetected, ultimately spreads in many cases to the bones and bone cancer from all reports is extremely painful. It is normally treated with massive doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation with their attendant hair loss, bloating and nausea. The prognosis is never bright.

That bullet called cancer CAN be dodged.

The secret: EARLY DETECTION through annual testing


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