What is Prostate Cancer?
The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system. In prostate cancer, abnormal cells develop in the prostate and multiply in an uncontrolled way and sometimes spread outside the prostate into nearby or distant parts of the body.
What are the symptoms?
In the early stages, there may be no symptoms. In the later stages, some symptoms of prostate cancer might include:
- Feeling the frequent or sudden need to urinate
- Finding it difficult to urinate
- Discomfort when urinating & Inability to hold urine
- Increased urination during night
- Finding blood in urine or semen
- Pain in the lower back, upper thighs or hips.
These symptoms may not mean you have prostate cancer, as they can occur in non-cancerous conditions also which can be confirmed by the doctors.
What are the risk factors?
The major risk factors are
- Age: The chance of developing prostate cancer increases with age and it occurs mainly after 50 years of age
- Family history: If a male relative (father or brother) suffers from prostate cancer then you have a higher chance of developing it than men with no such history.
- Diet: Eating a lot of processed meat or food that is high in fat can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Lifestyle: Sedentary lifestyle especially a lack of exercise can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
How is Prostate Cancer Detected and Diagnosed?
- Blood test (Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test): The result shows whether there is an increase in this specific protein. A high PSA test result does not necessarily mean cancer. Prostate diseases other than cancer can also cause a higher than normal PSA level.
- Digital Rectal Examination (DRE): Because of where the prostate is located, the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to check the size of the prostate and assess if there are any abnormalities.
- Biopsy: It is done to confirm the diagnosis of prostate cancer. Small samples of tissue from the prostate are removed using a very thin, hollow needle guided by an ultrasound. The tissue is sent to a pathologist to identify whether the cells are malignant (cancerous) or benign (not cancerous.
How is prostate Cancer Treated?
The treatment varies with the stage of the tumour, risk stratification and is also dictated by many patient-related factors such as age and general condition. Surgery, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy and chemotherapy are the main modalities for the treatment of prostate cancer
In the initial stages usually, one modality of treatment such as surgery or radiation therapy is employed whereas in advanced stages treatment is multimodality. In both surgery and radiation offer similar chances of cure in lower-stage cancers. Prostate cancers have high cure rates.
Is radiation therapy a safe modality for treatment?
Radiation is a safe and effective technique of cancer treatment. The current era of radiation therapy is targeted and precise where the innocent organs are spared from the harmful long-term effects of radiation therapy. The treatment techniques like IMRT, VMAT and IGRT empower the oncologist to deliver treatment by millimetric precision. In prostate cancer, the choice of treatment technique is of prime importance many critical/delicate organs are located around the tumour areas. The precise treatments lead to a better quality of life.
What are the advantages of newer treatment machines like HALCYON?
So far most Linear Accelerators require most patients to remain in the treatment room for 15-30 minute. For pelvic cancers like prostate cancer, patients are required to be treated while holding. Urine(bladder full). Machines like HALCYON particularly have the advantage of reducing the time the patient needs to spend in the treatment room. This reduction in time is especially helpful in prostate cancers who are unable to lie down on the treatment couch as their urine holding capacity is lower. The Dual-layer offset leaf technology enables more efficient treatment. In a nutshell, such machines are a boon for cancer patients as they ensure comfort as well as precision.
Dr. Kanika Sharma, Clinical Lead & Senior Consultant – Oncology, Radiation Oncology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi