Prostate cancer: 'Awareness, early detection key to survival'
One of the most common cancers in men, carcinoma of the prostate gland has often been considered a disease of the western world, since its incidence has traditionally been large in high income countries.
As life expectancy increases in India, more people would be afflicted by this disease that occurs in men over 60
One of the most common cancers in men, carcinoma of the prostate gland has often been considered a disease of the western world, since its incidence has traditionally been large in high income countries. However, with changing lifestyles and increasing life expectancy, the rate of prostate cancer is growing rapidly in India. This trend has not accompanied a corresponding increase in the levels of awareness.
If prostate cancer is diagnosed early, it can be treated successfully. In fact, in 9 out of 10 cases, early detection can provide a long-term cure. But, for early diagnosis, awareness about the disease and its screening modalities is absolutely crucial.
Dr M Gopichand, urologist, says, “Early detection implies diagnosing the cancer before it spreads outside the prostate gland. When the latter happens, it becomes difficult to cure. Symptoms of the disease often occur at the advanced stage and it is often too late to successfully treat it. Hence, preventive screenings for people who fall in the higher risk category are recommended.”
The risk of developing prostate cancer increases exponentially with age. Almost 70 per cent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65. Other risk factors include race, ethnicity, lifestyle disorders and hereditary factors. About 5 to 10 per cent of cases run in families, where the patient inherits a high risk of cancer. Studies have also indicated that men with sexually transmitted diseases have higher chance of getting afflicted with prostate cancer.
However, in general, following a healthy lifestyle is believed to reduce the risks of all cancers.
In cases where the disease has advanced outside the gland, the treatment possibilities become remote. At best, the treatment in these cases can reduce pain and give the patients some more years of life.
The treatments include surgery (prostatectomy), radiotherapy, hormonal therapy using androgen-depriving drugs, depending upon the stage and level of the cancer. Usually surgery and radiation therapy is practiced in case of early cancers, while hormonal treatment is opted for in advanced cancers.
Dr Gopichand adds, “Screening using Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) is the most common way to check if there is any cancerous growth in the prostate cancer. PSA is a substance produced in the prostate gland. It is produced by the cells in the prostate gland. Most healthy men have levels under 4 ng/mL of blood. When the PSA level is found to be increasing, this indicates the possibility of cancer.”