What is prostate cancer? Prostate cancer is the type of cancer that affects the prostate gland in men. The prostate is an exocrine gland in men that is a part of the male reproductive system. This organ rests under the bladder and in front of the rectum. Within the prostate are numerous tiny glands that produce fluid that forms a part of the semen. This fluid also provides nourishment and protection to the sperm. The prostate is also involved in urine control or continence because of its characteristic muscle fibers. The prostate muscles act to contract and release to control the flow of urine.
The prostate also produces a specific protein called prostate specific antigen (PSA). This antigen keeps semen in its fluid state. PSA levels are high when there is prostate cancer or other prostate problems.
In prostate cancer, cancer cells begin to start in the gland cells. This often termed as adenocarcinoma. The cancer may be limited to the prostate gland or it may progress very slowly and spread to other parts of the body. In prostate cancer, the cells of the prostate gland undergo certain changes in shape and size. This change is termed as prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, which means that there are dysplastic changes in the prostate glands and in its ducts, such as changes in the size and shape of the nucleus, cell crowding and irregular cell spacing. These changes may either be low grade or high grade; low grade is less serious while high-grade is more serious. High grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia determined through prostate biopsy is associated with an increased risk for having cancer cells in the prostate.
Prostate cancer has certain classifications. The most common classification system is the TNM staging (Tumor/Nodes/Metastases). This classification defines tumor size, the involvement of lymph nodes and the presence of metastasis. This classification serves to differentiate whether cancers are restricted to the prostate or those which have spread to other parts of the body. Class T1 and T2 are limited to the prostate while Class T3 and T4 have spread outside the prostate. Another scoring system used in the diagnosis of prostate cancer is the Gleason score, which is graded through biopsy results.
At an early stage, prostate cancer can present with no symptoms. However, symptoms may be evident as time passes by in the form of frequent urination, difficulty in urination, blood in the urine, painful urination, painful ejaculation and difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection. Far-advanced prostate cancer can present with bone pain especially in the ribs or spine or pelvis, pain in the femur, leg weakness, urinary incontinence and fecal incontinence. The exact causes of prostate cancer are unkown, however there are certain risk factors for the disease such as older age, genetics, diet, the use of anti-inflammatory medications, obesity, sexually transmitted disease, and others.
Selenium, Vitamin E and Prostate Cancer Risk
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It used to be that intake of selenium and Vitamin E supplements were known to prevent prostate cancer. However, a new study says otherwise. In this study by researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the researchers have found out that high-dose supplementation of selenium and Vitamin E cannot prevent but can even increase the risk for high-grade prostate cancer. However, they noted that this risk is dependent on a man's selenium status before taking supplementation. The results of this study were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The data used in this study were obtained data from the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, or SELECT, a rigorously executed, randomized and placebo-controlled trial conducted by the SWOG cancer research cooperative group. This study involved more than 35,000 men and sought to explain whether taking high dose Vitamin E of 400 IU per day or intake of selenium (200 mcg/day) could protect men from prostate cancer. The results showed that there was no protective effect. Men who already had high levels of selenium were prone to develop selenium toxicity after intake. Those who have low selenium status can increase their prostate cancer risk by taking vitamin E.
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