Manipal Nurse Sunday Column: The truth behind prostate cancer

The prostate surrounds the upper part of the urethra, the tube that empties urine from the bladder. It is a male sex gland that produces a thick fluid that forms part of semen and is about the size of a walnut. It is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum.

All men, age 40 or older, should be screened for cancer yearly. If you dread the rectal exam, there’s a blood test.

This blood test, called the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), is very sensitive and accurate. PSA should generally be below 2.5 for a 40-year-old man. If it’s more, then further tests must be conducted.

Australia’s best urologist in Melbourne county strongly advises that both the rectal exam and blood test be taken. This will produce a more accurate result. Do not depend on the rectal exam alone. Sometimes cancer can be so deep inside the prostate that it cannot be felt.

Another problem is that many doctors have forgotten how to give a rectal exam, or are not trained properly. All it takes is a gentle touch.

The laser TURP (Transurethral resection of the prostate) operation does not cure prostate cancer. If your doctor or urologist suggests the operation, he advises you to seek a second opinion. The reason: the operation removes the inside of the prostate gland, leaving whatever cancer cells there are on the outside. The operation is usually reserved for enlargened, benign (non-cancerous) prostate glands.

There is a cure, however-one that’s sanctioned by every expert in the world. It’s called a radical prostatectomy, where the entire prostate gland is removed plus some surrounding tissue. The side effects can be impotence and incontinence. Incontinence can be a huge issue with incontinence supplies posing a massive financial strain on the patients. But these problems, are fast becoming things of the past.

For impotence, there are a number of treatments ranging from the pump to Viagra, and incontinence is rare after surgery.

The myths surrounding prostate cancer are that laser operation can cure it. Another is that it is linked to sex and promiscuity.

One thing’s for sure though: cutting down on meat and eating more tomatoes prevents any kind of cancer.

Tomatoes contain a cancer-fighting chemical. Since prevention is always better than cure, stock up on those tomatoes.

Typical symptoms

See your doctor if you have:

· a need to urinate frequently, especially at night.
· difficulty starting urination or holding back urine.
· an inability to urinate.
· weak or interrupted flow of urine.
· painful or burning urination.
· painful ejaculation.
· blood in urine or semen.· frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.

If you have none of the above signs, get a yearly check anyway once past the age of 40.

Treatment for Prostate Cancer

Radiation Therapy:

External beam therapy can be used to treat the prostate gland or prostate bed. Treatments are usually Monday through Friday for about seven weeks.

Internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy can also be used in some instances.

Different types of radiation isotopes are inserted in the area of the prostate. They are temporary and must be removed at the predetermined time. Permanent seeds, like gold, can also be placed in the prostate area. Due to low half-life or decay time, they do not have to be removed.


This is a choice for patients whose prostate cancer has spread outside the gland, and for those patients who have tried hormone therapy without success. It is not effective for early-stage prostate cancer, so it is not considered a method of choice for those patients.

Hormone Therapy is also being used in the treatment of prostate cancer.

There are various drugs available. One currently being used is called Lupron which decreases the amount of testosterone produced. It is taken by injection and can be as effective as testicular surgery. If used on a long-term basis, all types of prostate cancers become resistant to this type of treatment, however.

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