King Charles of Britain was diagnosed with cancer, Buckingham Palace stated on Monday, after it was also previously shared that the British King had an enlarged prostate last month. The cancer diagnosis from Monday is located elsewhere on the King’s body, reports said. But what is prostate cancer, and what else might one need to know about it?
Understanding the prostate
The prostate gland is a crucial component of the male reproductive system. Positioned above the urethra and encircling the urinary tract to which it is attached, its primary role is to secrete prostate fluid. This milky substance is a key ingredient in semen, aiding in the protection of sperm after they are released into the female reproductive tract.
How common is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer stands as the most prevalent cancer among men. Statistics indicate that one-third of men over fifty and nearly all men over eighty have cancerous cells in their prostate. The slow growth of prostate cancer often results in a lack of symptoms, especially in older individuals. However, in a small fraction of cases, the cancer can grow quickly and spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones.
How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
Recent guidelines recommend that men undergo a PSA blood test to identify elevated marker levels, which could indicate prostate cancer. The American Preventive Services Task Force suggests this screening for men aged 55 to 69, even in the absence of symptoms. However, because PSA levels do not always rise with prostate cancer, an MRI scan is the diagnostic method of choice when there is suspicion of the disease.
Who is at an increased risk of the disease?
Families with a history of prostate cancer exhibit a higher risk of the disease. Men with a family history, particularly if their father or brother has been affected, are advised to undergo screening from the age of 40. Additionally, individuals carrying the BRCA gene, linked to breast cancer, are at an elevated risk, as are those from families with a history of breast and ovarian cancers.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
In its early stages, prostate cancer typically does not produce symptoms. Symptoms may emerge as the tumor grows and exerts pressure on the urethra. Because the growth of prostate cancer is slow, symptoms can manifest years after the tumor’s development. Non-cancerous causes, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia, are common in men over fifty.
Symptoms for both benign prostate enlargement and malignant growths in the prostate are similar, including urination difficulties, increased nighttime urination, painful urination, rare instances of blood in urine or semen, and sexual dysfunction. Bone pain can indicate that the cancer has spread to the bones, with back, thigh, or pelvic muscle pain often being the initial symptoms.
How is prostate cancer treated?
Treatment strategies are tailored to the disease’s stage and the tumor’s aggressiveness. For low-grade, localized tumors, monitoring with semi-annual PSA tests is typically sufficient. If PSA levels remain stable, monitoring continues.
PSA levels are interpreted based on the patient’s age and the estimated gland weight, with a comprehensive risk assessment for prostate cancer. Generally, PSA levels above 10 nanograms per milliliter are considered high, though younger individuals might see elevated levels at 6 nanograms per milliliter.
For medium-grade malignancies, older patients may only undergo monitoring, as life expectancy without treatment can exceed ten years. In younger patients, due to the potential for disease spread and life expectancy reduction, complete removal of the prostate, often via the “da Vinci” robotic system, is recommended.
Post-surgical recovery includes pelvic muscle strengthening exercises to regain urinary control, typically achieved within two weeks to six months.
In cases of high-grade malignancy with metastasis, full prostatectomy followed by chemotherapy or biological treatments is pursued. Radiation therapy is generally avoided due to its severe side effects on the pelvic region and urethra.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report