Prostate cancer will effect as many as half of all men over the age of 80. Although, the cancer is usually slow growing, those of African descent are at risk earlier and the rate of growth being faster than those no of African descent.
In the early stages of prostate cancer, the cancer cells are only found in the prostate and since it is usually slow growing, taking, ten, twenty or thirty years before a prostate tumor effects your health.
For those, unfamiliar with where the prostate is and what its functions are; the prostate is a gland found in males, who’s purpose is to produce semen; being about the size of a walnut, it resides in the lower pelvic area, just below the bladder.
According to your PSA (prostate specific antigens) levels, a test done through the drawing of your blood; these test will determine the how active and the amount of cancer cells effecting your body and blood. A low risk would have your PSA levels less than 10 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter of blood), medium risk 10 to 20 ng/ml and high risk over 20 ng/ml. The tumor staging is similar, finding most tumors in low risk stage to be a T1 or T2a tumor stage, medium risk at a staging of T2b and high risk with a tumor stage of T2c.
The staging process is likely to confuse anyone and understanding it will allow you to be better prepared and less likely to fear what the doctors tell you. T1 signifies the cancer as being very minute, and doctors cannot feel it during and exam. T1a and T1b is usually not noticed and if found, it is usually by accident, during an exam from something else. T1c is usually discovered when a gentleman has higher than normal PSA levels and a biopsy is done. At the T2 stage indicates the cancer can be felt during a medical exam called a DRE, which a doctor places a gloved finger in the rectum in order to feel the prostate. The doctor according to the size of the tumor will assign a, b, c to the stage. He will also determine if it is in one or more lobes.
Besides the DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) test, there are other tests the doctor may want you to undergo. The PSA test, (Prostate-Specific Antigen) checks your PSA levels. PSA is a protein made by both normal prostate cells and prostate cancer cells; when prostate cancer is present the levels will rise and doctors will begin to monitor your levels, if it reaches 4ng/ml or higher he may ask for a prostate biopsy. When you have a biopsy the samples will be scored, called the Gleason score. The scoring is done on a scale of 1 to 10, showing how different the prostate cancer cells are from normal cells; most early stages will be score about 6 or 7.
There are several options for men when faced with prostate cancer. Because it is usually rather slow growing, most men will have their doctors actively monitor their condition. Through regular exams, and PSA tests, the doctor can monitor the cancer growth, most will never need anything more than this as most men will die of something other than prostate cancer. If the cancer begins to grow faster or move, then the doctors will recommend other treatments. On the other hand if you cannot live with the thought of cancer in you, then you may want to actively ask for a treatment early on.
Surgery is one option, this is where they will go in and remove the prostate, usually removing some lymph nodes as well as the seminal vesicles. You may be given the recommendation to have radiation, this may be considered in lieu of surgery or perhaps recommended after surgery.
There are several options if the surgery is recommended. Open prostatectomy is where the doctor removes the prostate through an incision in your abdomen, lymph nodes will be checked and removed if necessary. Careful consideration is done in order to spare the nerves near and around the prostate that control the erections and bladder functions. A Laparoscopic surgery is where the doctor uses a laparoscope to remove the prostate, the laparoscope is a tube with a light on it and camera that guides the doctors who use a second tiny incision to insert the surgical tools. Doctors choose this surgery trying to prevent nerve damage. The last type is Perineal Prostatectomy which is where the doctor removes the prostate through an incision between the scrotum and the rectum, doctors cannot check the lymph nodes during this type of surgery and it is hard to spare the nerves, because of these reasons, this type is less likely to be used or recommended.
The radiation options that may be recommended may be the External Beam Radiation, where a machine aims the radiation at your cancer. The machine moves around the body, in a mapped out direction, enabling the radiation to penetrate exactly where the tumor or tumors are located in the prostate. A schedule of about six to nine weeks of radiation will be scheduled, at five days a week. Brachytherapy is an internal type of radiation where seeds, much like tiny grains of rice are implanted into the prostate. This is a good choice for early stages. There are several types of Brachytherapy, one is the LDR which stands for low dose radiation, whereas low does seeds are placed into the prostate, giving off a low dose over a period of months. They are never removed. The HDR, stands for high dose radiation and the doctors place catheters into the prostate, they can then give high doses directly into the prostate. You will need to be hospitalized for this type of treatment, the catheters will stay in place while the treatments are done, then removed before leaving the hospital.
New treatments are always underway, IMRT, intesity-modulated radiation, the Proton Beam Therapy and Cryosurgery are a few new treatments being used in experimental conditions. The IMRT is an external beam delivered by computers, hoping to lessen the chance of tissue and nerve damage, likewise the Proton Beam Therapy uses a proton beam rather than an xray beam, allowing a higher dose without damage to the surrounding tissues. The Cryosurgery uses nitrogen to freeze the cancer.
Like Breast Cancer, Prostate cancer is sensitive to hormones. Testosterone increases the growth of prostate cancer. They are using hormone therapy to reduce the growth or slow the growth of prostate cancer however, the use of hormone therapy is not without side effects like low sex drive and erectile dysfunction.
Including in the testing stages of treatments, Heat Therapy where a probe is inserted into the rectum using high intensity ultrasounds the prostate tissue is heated, killing the cancer cells; such therapy is being clinically tested now.
The Chemotherapy treatment, a routine, traditional approach can be used whereas a selected drug is used in order to kill rapidly growing cancer cells. This therapy may be recommended when the prostate cancer has spread beyond the prostate itself, into other parts of the body. Doctors may recommend this along with radiation and surgery or when they see no improvement when using hormone therapy.
We must also consider the use of integrative cancer treatments where alternative treatments (treatments not considered traditional) are used in combination with traditional therapies or with several different alternative approaches. While most traditional doctors may tell you alternative treatments will not cure prostate cancer or put it into remission; the statistics from clinics around the world using some of these treatments are having very good results up to near one hundred percent success rate, especially in early stages.
One of the best alternative treatments known in the integrative treatment arena, is Sono-Photo Dynamic Therapy, otherwise known as SPDT. The therapy is non-invasive, no side effects like other therapies and the success rate is remarkably high. This therapy uses and activator or sensitizer; This sensitizer is ingested ( a very tiny amount of natural ‘green’ plant material), the cells absorb, yet after a short time, normal cells have used the material while the cancer cells hold onto it. When the time has passed, three dynamic therapies begin, ultrasound is placed over the cancer areas, thus activating the sensitizer within the cancer cells, killing them; light (the photo portion) is applied using natural light and also laser light; each type of therapy reaches deep into the body killing off cancer cells. While this therapy is not considered alternative in the sense of using just vitamins, herbs and other natural remedies, SPDT is a highly effective integrative cancer treatment. It is used in numerous countries in Europe and elsewhere, by many highly trained and knowledgeable cancer doctors, it is unfortunately yet to be used in the U.S.; however, clinics in Mexico are available using this treatment; in fact, one of the world’s most renowned SPDT specialist is located in Mexico.
As with any cancer, the choice you choose needs be your own. It is important that you discuss your options with your family but ultimately the choice is yours. Be mindful with all decisions, others may pressure you, others may have options, doctors may give you ultimatums but you need to stand quietly and peacefully with all options set before you, then with a clear mind, make the decision that you feel is best for you.
We encourage anyone facing cancer to find a place that you are without pressure, to allow yourself to discover the hope you will need to face this all head on. It is too often seen people make decisions because they feel pressured into it, by family opinions or doctors recommendations; the need to make a fast decision places a tremendous amount of stress upon the one facing the cancer. We understand this pressure and it is necessary to tell others around you to stand back, allow you to face the options, weigh the pros and cons, then firmly decide the approach best suited to your situation. No cancer will grow over night, everyone has the time for decision making; especially men facing prostate cancer. Once the decision is made, stand firm and explain clearly to those around you, the decision you have made is yours, their opinions are appreciated but the treatment you have chosen is right for you. If your doctors try to convince you to try another approach, you need, again be firm and clearly state your decision needs be accepted and respected. Above all things, you, the cancer victim, needs be respected at all times. A stress free life is important to the any outcome, remind those around you.
We wish all those facing prostate cancer, remission and a long hopeful happy life.
References: National Cancer Institute, Mayo Clinic,Thomas C. Weiss publication, personal and direct use or experience.