What is prostate cancer and what are its symptoms?
The prostate gland and seminal vesicles are part of the male reproductive system. The prostate is about the size of a walnut and lies below the urinary bladder and in front of the rectum. The seminal vesicles are two smaller glands behind the prostate. The prostate gland surrounds the urethra or the water-pipe in full circumference, which is a tube carrying urine from the bladder out through the penis. With the age, prostate gland grows in size leading to pressure on the urethra causing difficulty in passing urine. These symptoms are labelled as lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) which include frequent urination, increased night time urination, sensation of urgency or poor flow. Important function of the prostate and seminal vesicles is to make fluid to bathe semen which helps in sperm maturation. During ejaculation, sperm is made in the testicles, and then moves to the urethra.
Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the prostate gland. It is the second-leading cause of cancer related death for men across the globe with nearly 1.3 million cases getting diagnosed every year.
Generally speaking, prostate cancer localised to the gland does not cause any direct symptoms. Age related enlargement of the prostate (benign prostatic enlargement) leads to lower urinary tract symptoms. Prostate cancer generally occurs on the background of the benign enlargement and hence may have similar symptoms. ‘Blood in pee’ can be a rare symptom due to prostate cancer. Once the cancer cells come out of prostate and get deposited elsewhere in the body, they lead to local symptoms which can vary from bone pain to back ache or weakness in lower extremities due to compression on the spinal column, but it may happen only in very late stages.
Inputs by Dr. Ashwin Tamhankar Consultant Uro-oncology and Robotic Surgery at Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai.