Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is observed annually in September to raise awareness about prostate cancer, its prevention, early detection, and treatment.
Prostate cancer is one of the significant health concern for men contributing to various high risk factors. So, on this awareness month UHAPO Healthcare Services conducts various activities and campaigns to educate the public, encourage screening, and support research efforts related to the disease.
Importance of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
Prostate cancer is the third leading cancer in men in India, accounting for 7% of all cancers. Since the 1990s, cases of prostate cancer have shot up by over 220% and India’s National Cancer Registry Programme estimates incidence is expected to grow rapidly in the upcoming years ahead. It usually affects men in the age group of 65+ years. However, there have been many cases among younger men aged 35-44 and 55-64 years in India recently. Today’s modern lifestyle has led to an increase in the number of symptoms such as obesity, improper diet, and genetic alterations have significantly contributed to the spike in these prostate cancer cases.
Prostate cancer risk factors are characteristics or conditions that may increase a man’s likelihood of developing prostate cancer. Having one or more risk factors does not guarantee the development of prostate cancer, but they can increase the chances. Conversely, many men with prostate cancer have no identifiable risk factors. Here are some common risk factors for prostate cancer –
- Family history
- Genetic Factors
- Dietary Factors
- Geographic Location
- Occupational Exposure
- Sexually Transmitted Infections
Importance of Early Detection
Early detection of prostate cancer is critically important for several reasons –
- Prostate cancer is often slow-growing, and when detected at an early stage, it is highly treatable and associated with better long-term survival rates.
- Early detection allows for less aggressive treatment options. When prostate cancer is caught at an early stage, treatment can be less invasive and may not require aggressive therapies like surgery or radiation.
- Early detection and treatment can help maintain a higher quality of life.
- Detecting prostate cancer early can prevent it from spreading beyond the prostate gland (metastasis).
- Early detection allows for a more comprehensive evaluation of the cancer’s characteristics, which can help healthcare providers tailor treatment plans to the specific needs of the patient.
- Early detection and effective treatment can extend a man’s life expectancy.
There are two primary screening options for prostate cancer: the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test and the Digital Rectal Exam (DRE). These screenings are typically used together to help detect prostate cancer in its early stages.
- Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test – The PSA test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in the blood. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland, and elevated PSA levels can indicate various prostate conditions, including prostate cancer. while the PSA test can help detect prostate cancer early, it is not a definitive diagnostic tool. Some men with elevated PSA levels do not have prostate cancer, and some with normal PSA levels may have cancer.
- Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) – The DRE can help detect abnormalities in the prostate, such as lumps or irregularities that may be indicative of cancer. The DRE is a quick and relatively painless procedure, though some men may find it uncomfortable as a healthcare professional have to evaluate the size, texture, and shape of the prostate by using hand gloves.
Prostate cancer is often asymptomatic in its early stages, which is why regular screenings are crucial for early detection. However, as the cancer progresses, some men may experience symptoms. The common symptoms of prostate cancer include –
- Increased frequency of urination, especially at night (nocturia).
- Difficulty starting or stopping urination.
- Weak urine flow.
- Pain or burning during urination.
- Blood in the urine (hematuria).
Erectile Dysfunction – Prostate cancer can affect erectile function, leading to difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection.
Pain and Discomfort
- Pain or discomfort in the pelvic area, lower back, hips, or upper thighs.
- Discomfort or pain during ejaculation.
Blood in Semen – Hematospermia, or the presence of blood in semen, can sometimes occur.
- In advanced stages of prostate cancer, when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, individuals may experience additional symptoms, such as bone pain (due to bone metastasis), unexplained weight loss, fatigue, and swelling in the legs or pelvic area.
Treatment approaches can range from active surveillance for slow-growing, low-risk cancers to more aggressive therapies for advanced or aggressive cases. Here are the primary treatment options for prostate cancer –
- Active Surveillance – During active surveillance, regular check-ups, PSA tests, and prostate biopsies are performed to monitor the cancer’s progression. If the cancer shows signs of becoming more aggressive, treatment may be recommended.
- Surgery (Prostatectomy) – Surgical removal of the prostate gland is called a prostatectomy. There are different types of prostatectomy –
- Radical Prostatectomy – This procedure involves removing the entire prostate gland, as well as nearby lymph nodes if necessary. It’s a common treatment for localized prostate cancer.
- Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy – This minimally invasive surgical technique uses a robotic system to assist the surgeon during the procedure.
- Radiation Therapy – Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and kill cancer cells. It can be delivered externally (external beam radiation therapy) or internally (brachytherapy).
- Hormone Therapy – It stops the male homones production. It relies on testosterone to help them grow. Eliminating the supply of testosterone can destroy cancer cells or stop the further spread.
- Chemotherapy – It uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It is administered through vein in your arm or pill form. It is used as a treatment option when the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
- Targeted Therapy – It treats advanced or recurrent cancer cells. It works by targeting specific abnormalities present in cancer cells. The reduction of abnormalities causes cancer cells to die.
- Immunotherapy – It uses your body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. These cancer cells produce proteins that help them hide from the immune system cells.
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent prostate cancer, there are several strategies that may help reduce the risk of developing the disease. These strategies are primarily focused on making healthy lifestyle choices and being proactive about one’s health –
- Dietary modifications
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid tobacco products
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Excessive Medications and supplements
In India, there are various organizations, support groups, and resources available to individuals and families affected by prostate cancer. These resources can provide information, support, and assistance throughout the cancer journey.
- Cancer centers such as Tata Memorial Hospital (Mumbai), AIIMS (Delhi), and Kidwai Cancer Institute (Bangalore).
- Cancer support organizations including –
Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) – Provides support, counseling, and financial aid to cancer patients.
Indian Cancer Society (ICS) – Offers various support services and conducts awareness programs.
CanSupport – Focuses on palliative care and support for cancer patients and their families.
- The Indian government has various health programs and initiatives aimed at cancer prevention and control. These programs may include cancer screening and treatment services. The National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) is one such initiative.