There is one fact regarding prostate cancer treatment that a majority of doctor’s who treat patients with prostate cancer all agree upon. Early detection of the disease can offer a patient’s best chance for effective treatment and cure. One of the reasons that prostate cancer claims so many victims is that all too often, the disease is detected only after it has reached advanced stages. By then, the options for treatment and the chances for cure are much smaller.
The prostate is a gland within a male’s reproductive system that surrounds the urethra, which empties the bladder of urine. Starting at age 50 (or earlier if an individual is at higher risk), men should have an annual DRE or Digital Rectal Exam and a PSA or Prostate Specific Antigen test. African American men or men with a history of prostate cancer in their families should have annual exams beginning at age 40. The exam can be performed by a personal physician and doesn’t require going to a specialist.
A DRE consists of a physician using his fingers to check the size and firmness of the prostate. The exam itself usually only lasts a few seconds, and allows the physician to determine if there are any abnormalities of the prostate. If the physician detects any problems such as lumps or hard tissue, he/she can then direct further testing to make a determination as to whether a problem exists.
A PSA test is a blood test and involves a small blood sample being taken, and then evaluated in a laboratory.
In the case where prostate cancer is detected and has reached advanced stages and/or has spread to other portions of the body, then treatment often involves strategies implemented to try to slow the progress of the disease as much as possible. This may include hormone therapy to lower testosterone levels (the male hormone testosterone provides the cancer with the means to thrive), chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Early detection of prostate cancer is often a key factor in the prostate cancer treatment options an individual may have open to him, as well as the chance for survival or cure. One of the problems in detection of the disease is that men who have it may not experience symptoms or problems prior to the disease reaching a critical point. However, if an individual experiences some of the warning signs of prostate cancer including frequent urination, a weak stream of urine, strain or difficulty urinating, or a feeling that the bladder does not completely empty during urination, a prostate exam should be performed immediately.
Prostate cancer treatment continues to be an area of aggressive cancer research. However, one of the best and most effective strategies used to fight this disease continues to be its early detection.