Prostate Cancer: Early Detection and Screening

Prostate cancer screening means conducting tests to find the cancer in people with no symptoms. Screening helps in early detection of the cancer when it is still easier to treat. To detect prostate cancer before symptoms appear, urologists recommend either measuring the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in blood or doing a digital rectal exam (DRE), when the urologist inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum. If the results of a PSA or DRE are abnormal, the urologist will request further tests. Finding prostate cancer via a PSA or DRE screening means the disease is probably still at an early stage and will respond well to treatment.

PSA Screening

Prostate Cancer: Early Detection and ScreeningThe prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures the amount of the protein (PSA) released in blood by prostate cells. Even though both normal and cancerous (abnormal) prostate cells produce the protein, higher blood levels of PSA indicate the possibility of cancer. The PSA test is one of the best indicators of prostate cancer and is recommended by urologists because it is widely available, relatively inexpensive and is a low-risk blood test for patients.

Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)

To perform a digital rectal exam, the urologist inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum in order to feel the state of the prostate gland. Since prostate cancer often begins in the back of the prostate, DRE helps to assess the texture of this area and checks for hard areas and bumps (nodules) which might indicate cancer. DRE is also effective in detecting whether the cancer has spread to nearby tissues or has reoccurred after treatment.

Confirming Prostate Cancer

After a digital rectal exam (DRE) or PSA blood test, the urologist may request a biopsy to confirm the cancer. But before the doctor can decide whether biopsy is necessary, a number of supplementary tests and considerations must be made, including family history, ethnicity, prior biopsy findings and different forms of PSA. A biopsy means the doctor takes out a small portion of the prostate tissue to be examined under a microscope for cancerous cells. Since cancerous cells appear different from normal prostate cells, a close exam of biopsy cells will help to confirm the cancer.

When to Start Screening

The age of beginning or stopping prostate cancer screening depends on individual risk. Men with a higher risk of having prostate cancer should start screening at age 40. This includes African American men and all men with first and second degree relatives with a history of prostate cancer. Men with average risk should start screening at 50, but only after discussing it with their doctors to reduce the rate of unnecessary biopsies. Men age 75 and older or those with limited life expectancy (less than 10 years) should be discouraged from early detection testing for prostate cancer because they may not benefit much from screening. Nevertheless, a decision to go for prostate cancer screening must be made with the help of a urologist or GP and should depend on a man’s lifestyle, family history, overall health and life expectancy. For more information on screening, diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer, visit the site, Advanced Urology Institute.

What is Prostate and Prostate Cancer?

The prostate gland is a chestnut-shaped male reproductive organ located below the urinary bladder and surrounding the upper portion of the urethra, the duct that allows passage of semen and urine. It is a conglomerate of secretory ducts that emit fluids into the urethra and ejaculatory ducts. The prostate produces a thick, white fluid which mixes with sperm from the testicles to create semen, contributing 15-30 percent of the semen secreted by a man. The gland also produces a protein known as prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which turns semen into liquid. While the prostate matures into a small, walnut-sized gland at puberty, usually between 10-14 years old, it will still grow slowly with age. However, prostate enlargement after age 50 may lead to urinary problems, often occurring as a result of inflammation or malignancy.

Prostate Cancer: What is it?

Prostate cancer is a disease that occurs when changes in prostate cells make them grow uncontrollably or abnormally. The abnormal or cancerous cells then may continue to multiply non-stop and even spread outside the prostate into nearby or distant areas of the body. Prostate cancer is rare before age 50, but is common among older men and is the second most frequent cause of all cancer-related deaths in American men. The disease is typically slow growing, often showing no symptoms until it reaches advanced stage. Hence, most men with the cancer will never know it and will just die of other causes. Nevertheless, when prostate cancer starts to grow and spread quickly, it can be very lethal and requires prompt treatment.

Causes of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer occurs mainly in older men, with more than 80 percent of cases seen in men older than 65 and less than 1 percent observed in men younger than 50. Men who eat lots of high-fat diets such as red meat have a higher risk of getting the disease. Studies have shown that the disease is more common among men who consume meat and dairy products regularly than in those who eat vegetables, rice and soybean products. Fats increase the amount of testosterone in the body and in turn speed up the growth and spread of prostate cancer. Men from families with a history of the cancer are at a higher risk, as are welders, rubber workers, battery manufacturers and men frequently exposed to metal cadmium. Failure to exercise regularly also may make the cancer more likely.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer tends to show no symptoms in the early stages, but will show some symptoms in the later stages. Common symptoms include sudden or frequent urge to urinate, trouble starting a urine stream or knowing when to urinate, pain or discomfort when urinating, blood in urine or semen, and pain in the upper thighs, lower back or hips. While these symptoms may not necessarily mean you have prostate cancer, you should see a urologist or GP when you have any of them.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When you visit a urologist, a medical history and physical examination will be performed followed by a digital rectal exam (DRE) and PSA test. If the doctor detects that you are at risk of prostate cancer, a biopsy will be requested to confirm it. There are several treatment options for prostate cancer including active surveillance (watchful waiting), surgery, radiation therapy, cryotherapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy and bone-directed treatment. Remember that early diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer improves your chances of survival. For more information on treatment of prostate diseases, visit the site, Advanced Urology Institute.

How Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy Works?

Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure for removing upper ureteral stones and kidney stones larger than 2 centimeters in diameter. Historically, larger stones were removed in open surgery, which required a larger flank incision. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (nephrolithotripsy) is a more refined alternative to open surgery, using a 1-centimeter skin incision. The procedure reduces blood loss, pain and hospital stay and has an increased success rate.

During PCNL, the patient is given general anesthesia before a needle is inserted through the skin to puncture the kidney and create a channel through which a nephroscope is passed into the kidney to break the stone into fragments for easy extraction. The entire procedure takes 3-4 hours.

During percutaneous nephrolithotomy:

  • The patient receives general anesthesia to make the procedure less painful. The patient then lies face down on the abdomen.
  • The surgeon performs cystoscopy (telescopic exam of the bladder) and instills X-ray dye or carbon dioxide into the kidney using a small catheter through the ureter of the affected kidney. This helps the surgeon to locate the stone more precisely.
  • After locating the stone, the urologist makes a small incision on the back and passes a tiny needle through the skin (under X-ray guidance) into the kidney to directly access the stone.
  • The needle tract is dilated to about 1-centimeter to enable placement of a plastic sheath and telescope for visualizing the stone.
  • Using a laser or mechanical lithotripsy device, the surgeon breaks the stone into smaller fragments and extracts the pieces through the sheath.
  • At the end of the operation, temporary catheters, a nephrostomy tube for the kidney and a stent tube for the bladder, are used to drain urine. The catheters are removed before discharge from hospital, usually after 2-4 days.

Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is recommended when:

  • Urine flow is blocked.
  • Kidney stones obstruct several branches of the collecting system of the kidney (also called staghorn kidney stones).
  • Kidney stones are bigger than 2 centimeters (0.8 inch) in diameter.
  • Urine leakage is occurring inside the body.
  • There is severe pain even after treatment for a kidney stone.
  • Kidney stone is causing damage to the kidney.
  • Other treatment options have failed.
  • The urologist will request several tests before the operation. Blood and urine tests check for infection and other problems, while a computerized tomography (CT) scan helps to determine the location of the stones.

Advantages of PCNL:

  • Minimally-invasive procedure, with less pain, quick recovery, shorter hospital stay (2-4 days) and quick return to work (7-10 days).
  • No surgical scar or complications associated with large incision operations.
  • Less risk of postoperative infections compared to open surgery.
  • Minimal harm to kidney function.
  • Limits residual stones, as the surgeon has the opportunity to look inside the renal calyx and ureter.
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy is effective for most people with stones in the ureter or kidney. Its stone free rate is greater than 90 percent and is the highest of all procedures.

For more information on treatment of kidney stones, visit Advanced Urology Institute.