What is Cancer?
Your body is made up of millions of cells which continuously renew themselves to replace old or damaged tissue. When the renewal process gets out of control whereby more cells grow than die they begin to form growths or tumours.
These tumours can either be benign (non cancerous) or malignant which are cancerous and can invade and damage healthy tissue.
Sometimes cancer cells can break away from the original site and settle in other parts of the body causing further damage. When this happens the cancers that have spread are called 'metastases', 'mets' or 'secondaries'.
About Prostate Cancer
The cause of prostate cancer is unknown, although it is more common in some ethnic groups than others and diet may be involved. There is some evidence that it runs in families. You have a slightly higher chance of developing it if you have a father or brother with prostate cancer. The more aggressive the cancer is, the greater the threat it poses to your life-expectancy.
Prostate cancer is described as 'early', locally advanced or 'late'. It starts with changes in the cells of the prostate. The cells form a lump which may eventually be felt in a physical examination. When prostate biopsies are taken they are examined by a pathologist who will report the grade of cancer present in the cells. The Gleason system is used to grade prostate cancer and describe how aggressive the cancer is.
A Gleason score of 2 - 4 is least aggressive, a score of 5 - 7 is moderately aggressive and a score of 8 - 10 is the most aggressive.
Prostate cancer can also be described by stage. The stage is determined by a combination of rectal examination, symptoms and/or imaging (such as MRI and bone scan). Stage 1 describes early prostate cancer which can only be seen under a microscope. Stage 2 is early prostate cancer which can be felt on examination. Stage 3 refers to locally advanced prostate cancer which may cause urinary problems and stage 4 is late prostate cancer probably with metastases (spread to other areas of the body).
Unfortunately, it is only when it has advanced that most men will get symptoms which lead them to see a doctor. So about half of the men diagnosed with prostate cancer will already have it in an advanced or late stage. However, even when prostate cancer has reached this stage it may still be possible to slow down its growth.
Treatment Options for Early Prostate Cancer
Early prostate cancer is usually dealt with in one of three ways:
- active surveillance
- one of the radical approaches
- one of the newer non-invasive approaches.
Although each may be equally effective, these treatments can have very different effects on a man's quality of life. So you have a part to play in making an informed choice.
There is one guideline that is used when deciding which treatment to recommend. Younger men, under 70 years old, generally should have one of the radical treatments rather than active surveillance. This is because they are likely to live long enough for the cancer to grow and cause harm.
With the newer non-invasive approaches (e.g. HIFU, brachytherapy, cryotherapy), not enough time has elapsed to know whether these treatments are more or less effective in early prostate cancer.
If you're experiencing symptoms of prostate cancer or have been recently diagnosed, please call 020 7224 5089 or use the appointment form to book a consultation.