The prostate gland is the size of a walnut and can be defined as a male sex gland. Since the prostate is located directly in front of the rectum, and just below the bladder a doctor can determine the size/condition of the gland by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum.
Ways to detect
In 1985, FDA gave their formal approval of the first test for monitoring blood levels for a substance called prostate specific antigen (PSA), the higher levels of which indicate prostrate cancer.
It is the best marker for prostate cancer as it is basically restricted to prostate cells.
In 1998, the next test to be approved was the Tandem R test, which measures another component called “free PSA,” and apart from total PSA.
Although PSA or digital tests indicate a strong possibility of the presence of cancer, doctors generally prescribe a transrectal ultrasound (TRUS), a probe using insertions into the rectum using sound waves to “map” the prostate.
Biopsies are the best way to detect if prostate cancer is present.
If cancer is found after a biopsy, the doctor “stages” the tumor – determining which biopsy specimens contain cancer, the degree of cancer, and the position of cancer in the specimens.
The Gleason score, judges the probable ferociousness of the tumor based on the cellular differences of the cancer.
In recent times, some doctors have also begun using Partin Tables, a scoring method perfected at Johns Hopkins University that uses PSA, Gleason number, and staging to calculate if the disease is limited or has spread to other areas.
Treating the Disease
Having collated all the diagnostic data, patients and their doctors must decide on the course of treatment. The decisions concerning treatment are critical they will have long term consequences, so it is wise to weigh all the options carefully.
The most unconventional treatment is to have no treatment at all. It is also known as watchful waiting, and it is most appropriate for men with a 10-year life expectancy or less or who for those having a low Gleason number and whose tumor is not widespread. The notion here is that these men are unlikely to die of the cancer as it is spreading so slowly.
Radical prostatectomy (RP) is another form of treatment in which the prostate is removed totally with the help of surgery. If this removal is performed when the cancer is restricted to the prostrate gland, RP is equivalent to a cure since in theory it removes all traces of the cancer.
Radiation treatment is an option that may be less harrowing than RP and appears to have results akin to RP when used in early-stage patients. The minus points are its side effects, including impotence, in about half of patients.
Cryotherapy is a kind of treatment in which the prostate tumors are killed by freezing, thus showing quick encouraging results. Some medical professionals argue about the lack of sufficient long term data to determine its effectiveness.