The prostate is a gland that is found below the urinary bladder in the male genital tract. The bladder literally sits on top of this gland such that the outlet of the bladder(the urethra) runs through this gland enroute to the penis.
Cancer of the prostate usually involves some form of enlargement of the gland. Not all enlargement of the prostate is due to cancer although every effort should be made to rule out cancer in any man with enlarged prostate.
Considering the fact the urethra - (the organ through which urine is eliminated from a man's bladder) passes through this gland, it is not surprising that some of the symptoms of cancer of the prostate will include: difficulty urinating or controlling urination, the urge to urinate frequently, painful or burning urination or blood in the urine. It must be noted that a good number of men with prostate cancer may not have any of these symptoms.
How do we detect Prostate Cancer?
- If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, seek evaluation from your physician.
- The American Cancer society recommends that every man age 40 years and above should get a digital rectal exam during his annual physical exam.
- There is a blood marker called Prostate Specific Antigen(PSA) that is performed every year on men 50 and over. For those with higher incidence rates of prostate cancer such as African Americans and any man with a family history of prostate cancer this test can be initiated at age 40 years.
- Another technique called prostate ultrasound done through the rectum can be used to pick up cancers of the prostate too small to be detected by physical exam.
- If cancer of the prostate is suspected, the physician will proceed with other diagnostic tests along with a biopsy-which is the removal of a small piece of tissue from the area of concern for examination under a microscope. It is this biopsy that ultimately confirms the diagnosis of cancer of the prostate.
As in most cancers if not all, the earlier prostate cancer is detected the better the chances of survival. It is equally true for men that as long as you have your prostate, you remain at risk of developing cancer of the prostate. For this reason, every man should be aware of this risk and continue to play an active role in helping physicians detect this cancer by adhering to the detection methods outlined above.