Only men have a prostate gland. The prostate gland is usually the size and shape of a walnut and grows bigger as you get older. It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, which is the tube men urinate and ejaculate through. Its main job is to help make semen – the fluid that carries sperm.
Prostate cancer occurs when some of the cells in the prostate reproduce far more rapidly than normal, resulting in a tumor. Prostate cancer often grows slowly to start with and may never cause any problems. But some men have prostate cancer that is more likely to spread. These prostate cancer cells, if left untreated, may spread from the prostate and invade distant parts of the body, particularly the lymph nodes and bones, producing secondary tumors in a process known as metastasis.
Detecting prostate cancer
Not everyone experiences symptoms of prostate cancer. Many times, signs of prostate cancer are first detected by a doctor during a routine check-up.
Some men, however, will experience changes in urinary or sexual function that might indicate the presence of prostate cancer.
Signs and symptoms
A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
Weak or interrupted flow of urine
Painful or burning urination
Difficulty in having an erection
Blood in urine or semen
Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs
Treating prostate cancer
Treatment options are many and varied. Testing still can’t answer lots of key questions about disease aggression, prognosis and progression.
If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s important to keep in mind that many prostate cancers are slow growing and may not need surgery or other radical treatment.
Treatment options include:
Choosing a treatment for prostate cancer
Aim to be ok with the treatment decision you make, take risks and benefits into consideration.
Learn what you can, make use of the quality services and resources available. When making treatment decisions the following is recommended:
Make a decision after a treatment recommendation from a multi-disciplinary meeting (where available). This meeting would ideally consist of input from the following specialists: urologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, radiologist, nursing and allied health.
Seek a second opinion for a recommended treatment option that is right for you, from both a urologist as well as a radiation oncologist.
Enquire as to whether a specialist is part of a quality improvement audit, such as a registry.
Utilize the cancer support services available in your country to increase your levels of information and understanding around treatment options, and potential side effects.
Approach your GP if you have concerns or want a second opinion.
Ongoing side effects of prostate cancer treatment
Depending on the treatment you undergo, you may experience some of the following:
Incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine)
Erectile dysfunction (difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection)
Weight gain due to hormone therapy
These side effects have different durations for different people.
Because a side effect of treatment may include erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer can have a serious impact on intimate relationships. As many people who have been through the journey will tell you, prostate cancer isn’t just a man’s disease, it’s a couple’s disease. Make sure you involve your partner as you think through the various treatment options.
Are you experiencing side effects?
There are treatments and actions you can take to manage many of these side effects. Take action to improve your quality of life. Go to Prostate Cancer Canada, who have a wide variety of options to inform and guide you as to what services and resources are available to help.