Signs and Symptoms
As prostate cancer becomes more advanced, it may cause certain signs, such as pain and/or swelling in the lower back, hips and legs, bone pain in general, decreased urinary stream force, sexual impotence, blood in semen and/or painful ejaculation, pain urinating, hematuria (bloody urine), among others. Pain urinating and hematuria are signs also commonly found in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia, due to the extra space-consuming prostatic growth. Most of these symptoms are related directly or indirectly to an enlargement of the prostate gland, cancerous or not; no matter its origin, the enlarged prostate presses on the urethra, blocking the urine and thus causing such discomfort and loss of control over urine or semen flow.
On the other hand, pain on the bones and hips may indicate an advanced cancerous condition. In these cases, cancer is metastatic, may have spread to other areas, becoming secondary prostate cancer, and is far more difficult to treat. Spinal nerve compression can also be related to secondary prostate cancer that has spread to vertebrae, from the tailbone to the spine. It weakens the vertebrae, which in turn fails to perform its functions properly, and, depending on the level to which the compression on the spinal cord is taking place, may cause the vertebrae to collapse. When experiencing pain in this region, the patient must go immediately to a hospital, since permanent damage to the spinal cord is a possibility in this case. Such signs and symptoms portray the importance of screenings such as Digital Rectal Exams (DRE) and Prostate Specific Androgen (PSA) blood exams.
Men over 40 years of age experiencing any level of pain or discomfort in any of these “areas of risk” can begin to think about performing these screenings routinely to prevent this cancer from reaching such uncomfortable and dangerous stages. The ongoing recommendation of the American Cancer Society is for patients to perform them after the age of 50; nevertheless, there are other risk factors that are asymptomatic and must be taken into account regardless of age, such as race, family history, and lifestyle.
Many studies have been performed to evaluate the sources related to the appearance of prostate cancer on certain individuals as compared to others. Race was obviously a variable examined, and indeed, it was proven that black men are 60% more likely to develop cancer on the prostate than are men of other racial backgrounds. Family history also seems to play an important role, since men with a long history of prostate cancer in the family (especially their fathers or brothers) also have a significantly higher chance of having the condition, as do men with a strong family history of breast cancer. Studies have shown some gene mutations that take place from generation to generation can contribute to the development of certain types of cancer; such as in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which have been found to contribute for prostate cancer.
Furthermore, people in general need to bear in mind that their lifestyle can also contribute greatly for the appearance of cancer. A diet excessive in saturated fat, for example, elevates the risk for prostate cancer. Consequently, obese people are very much at risk. Men who engage in testosterone therapy should be aware that this too increases their risk of having prostate cancer, since testosterone stimulates prostate growth.
As with any cancer, screening and prevention are the keys to lead a happy, normal life when having prostate cancer. Early detection is the only known way to cure the patient, since when the cancer spreads it becomes virtually impossible to hold it back. Men and their technology are evolving, though, and without a doubt sooner than imagined new ways of preventing or even stopping prostate cancer will be discovered. Until then, it is every man’s duty to ensure his own future is not jeopardized by participating in early screening.