About Testicular and Prostate Cancer
About Prostate Cancer
The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that produces the majority of fluid that makes up the semen, the thick fluid that carries sperm. Prostate cancer cells do not follow normal patterns and grow uncontrollably and spread to other tissues. Prostate cancer is typically a very slow growing tumour, often causing no symptoms until advanced stages. Most men with prostate cancer die of other causes -- many without ever realizing that they have the disease. But once prostate cancer begins to grow more rapidly or spreads outside the prostate, it is dangerous. This aggressive type of prostate cancer can occur at any age. Although the disease tends to progress slowly, it is generally fatal if it spreads beyond the prostate gland itself.
Prostate cancer in its early stages (confined to the prostate gland) can be cured. Cancer that has spread beyond the prostate to distant tissues (such as the bones, lymph nodes, and lungs) is not curable, but it often can be controlled for many years. Because of the many advances in available treatments, the majority of men whose prostate cancer becomes widespread can expect to live five years or more.
Prostate cancer affects mainly older men. Men who consume large amounts of fat -- particularly from red meat and other sources of animal fat -- are most likely to develop advanced prostate cancer. The disease is much more common in countries where meat and dairy products are dietary staples than in countries where the basic diet consists of rice, soybean products, and vegetables.
The underlying factor linking diet and prostate cancer is probably hormonal. Fats stimulate increased production of testosterone and other hormones, and testosterone acts to speed the growth of prostate cancer. High testosterone levels may stimulate dormant prostate cancer cells into activity.
Other risk factors include low physical activity and smoking.
Testicular and Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
All men are at risk for developing testicular and prostate cancer. Besides being male, there are other factors, such as age, race, and family history that may contribute to the risk.
Age: The greatest risk factor for prostate cancer is age. This risk increases significantly after the age of 50 in white men who have no family history of the disease and after the age of 40 in black men and men who have a close relative with prostate cancer. About two-thirds of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men age 65 and older.
Family history: Men whose relatives have had prostate cancer are considered to be at high risk. Screening for prostate cancer should be started at age 40 in these men.
Race: Prostate cancer occurs about 60% more often in African American men than in white American men and when diagnosed is more likely to be advanced. However, Japanese and African males living in their native countries have a low incidence of prostate cancer. Rates for these groups increase sharply when they immigrate to the U.S. African Americans are the second group of men for whom prostate cancer testing should begin at age 40. Some experts theorize that this suggests an environmental connection, possibly related to high-fat diets, less exposure to the sun, exposure to heavy metals such as cadmium, infectious agents, or smoking.
Diet: Research also suggests high dietary fat may be a contributing factor for prostate cancers. The disease is much more common in countries where meat and dairy products are dietary staples compared to countries where the basic diet consists of rice, soybean products, and vegetables.
Eating a diet high in the antioxidant lycopene (found in high levels in some fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon) may lower the risk of developing prostate cancer according to several studies.
The best way to detect prostate cancer in its early stages is with regular digital prostate exams and prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood tests. Because most malignant prostate tumours originate in the part of the gland nearest the rectum, many cancers can be detected during routine rectal examinations.
Since prostate cancer is often slow growing and may not be fatal in many men, some men -- after discussing the options with their doctors -- opt for "watchful waiting." Watchful waiting involves monitoring the prostate cancer for signs that it is becoming more aggressive but otherwise not treating it.
Depending on the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis, treatment may include a single therapy or some combination of radiation therapy, surgery, hormone therapy, and rarely chemotherapy. Localized prostate cancer usually can be cured with surgery, radiation therapy, or cryosurgery -- freezing malignant cells with liquid nitrogen. The choice is made on a case-by-case basis and depends on many factors.
Laparoscopic prostatectomy is a newer technique in which the surgery is performed with a laparoscope aided by a robotic arm. This can be as effective an open surgery but can have less sexual and urinary complications. After surgery, most men experience some degree of incontinence but usually regain complete urinary control. Impotence can be treated in a variety of ways -- including with medications such as Levitra, Cialis or Viagra.
Radiation therapy can very effective as the primary treatment for localized prostate cancer. It may also be given as follow-up to surgery for cancer that has not spread. Permanent radioactive seed implants (brachytherapy) allow for delivery of a high dose of radiation to the prostate with limited damage to surrounding tissues.
Testosterone can also be removed from the bloodstream by surgically removing the testicles (orchiectomy) or by administering drugs that block testosterone production. Men generally prefer the testosterone-blocking drug treatment because it is effective, less invasive, and causes fewer side effects than surgery.
The goal of prostate cancer treatment is a cure, and is likely in men diagnosed with early prostate cancer. All prostate cancer survivors should be examined regularly and have their PSA levels monitored closely.
About Testicular cancer
Testicular cancer occurs in the testicles (testes), which are located inside the scrotum, a loose bag of skin underneath the penis. The testicles produce male sex hormones and sperm for reproduction.
Compared with other types of cancer, testicular cancer is rare. But testicular cancer is the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 34.
Testicular cancer is highly treatable, even when cancer has spread beyond the testicle. Depending on the type and stage of testicular cancer, one of several treatments or a combination may be administered. Regular testicular self-examinations can help identify growths early, when the chance for successful treatment of testicular cancer is highest.
Primary causes of testicular cancer
- Men who have been diagnosed with testicular cancer have a 12 fold increased risk of being diagnosed with a second cancer of the testis.
- Men with a first-degree relative with testicular cancer have up to 10 times the risk of testicular cancer compared to men without a family history of the disease.
- Caucasian men have a higher risk of testicular cancer than men of other ethnicities.
- A condition where one or both testes have not descended into the scrotum, known as cryptorchidism, increases the risk of testicular cancer.
- Men with low fertility have a higher risk of testicular cancer.