Cancer is an alarming word. Many men fear that their prostatic symptoms are caused by cancer. In most cases, this fear is unfounded, but it is true that cancer of the prostate is quite common.
Like most types of cancer, prostatic cancer can be fatal. However, it is a form of cancer for which many types of treatment are available. Also, it often grows slowly and may cause little harm, especially in very elderly men.
Recently, doctors have discovered new ways of detecting early cancers in the prostate. This means that more men with prostatic cancer are being diagnosed at an earlier stage. There is much discussion among cancer specialists about whether these tests should be used for screening in the way that women are screened for breast and cervical cancer.
Why cancer of the prostate is so common is not known. In most cases there is no clear family history, but there is a form of the disease that does seem to run in families. If you have had a single relative with the disease, do not worry. However, if two closely related relatives have had prostate cancer, particularly if they were young, you should get your prostate checked from time to time after you reach 50.
There are differences between races and in different parts of the world, some of which might be due to diet or environmental factors. For example, prostate cancer is uncommon in Japan, but Japanese men who live in America have a higher risk of developing it. This is probably as a result of differences in diet. Certain types of fatty food may predispose to prostate cancer, whereas other foods, possibly including soya products, are protective. It is still too early to give definite advice but, as we understand more about these differences, it may become possible to advise on diets that reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Although there was some recent concern that having a vasectomy might make cancer of the prostate more likely, most experts are now agreed that this is not so.
How Is It Treated?
Removing or destroying a cancerous growth will cure the disease, providing it has not spread. Until recently this was all that could be done for most cancers and if spread (metastases) had already occurred little more could be done. However, there are now many treatments available that can be used to destroy or shrink cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. As we will see, cancer of the prostate was one of the first types of cancer for which treatment of this type was developed.