Prostate cancer is a form of cancer in the prostate gland, which is found only in males. In Singapore, more and more cases of prostate cancers are detected each year. This is probably due, in part, to increased health awareness among the public leading to more undergoing health screening. Most prostate cancers are detected through health screening.
In the early stages of prostate cancer, there are usually no symptoms. Many men confuse symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia with prostate cancer. Men with benign prostatic hyperplasia may have slow urinary flow, dribbling, frequent and night time urination, urge to pass urine, etc. On the other hand, these symptoms are usually not present in early stages of prostate cancer.
As such, early prostate cancer is usually diagnosed following health screening, which usually involves blood tests. One of the blood tests can detect a protein called Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) and this protein is produced by prostate cells. Both normal or cancerous prostate cells produce this protein. An abnormal result for PSA may or may not mean the presence of prostate cancer. There is an ongoing debate as to the merits of screening for prostate cancer and it is best to discuss this with the attending doctor first.
Another way prostate cancer can be screened is by palpating the prostate, can be felt by a doctor inserting a finger into the anus / rectum. The prostate may feel hard or nodular in cases of prostate cancer. Oftentimes, the prostate feels normal even in the presence of prostate cancer.
Abnormal PSA or nodule in the prostate does not imply prostate cancer. A prostate biopsy is needed to confirm the diagnosis. Prostate biopsy involves retrieving some tissue from the prostate and it is a procedure that can be done in the clinic. Prostate tissue is retrieved from the rectum under ultrasound guidance. The tissue is then sent to the pathologist, a specialist who reviews tissues, for confirmation.
Treatment for prostate cancer depends on the stage of the disease, which can be broadly divided into prostate cancer that’s still confined to the prostate or cancer that has spread outside the prostate or to another part of the body, commonly the bones. Treatment for organ-confined prostate cancer include surgery, to remove the prostate gland, or radiation therapy or a combination of both or observation. Treatment for cancer that has spread usually involves the use of hormones, which can be administered via injection therapy. There are other ways to treat prostate cancer and it is best to discuss the options with the doctor.