A closer look at prostate cancer: stages, symptoms and causes

A closer look at prostate cancer: stages, symptoms and causes

Prostate cancer is among the many types of cancer affecting several men in Australia. Generally, this type of cancer affects the prostate which is a gland located in the male reproductive system. The prostate’s main function is to produce and store seminal fluid that carries sperm around.

This type of disease is known to grow slowly and largely affects elderly men. Age is known to be one of the main risk factors. Obesity and family history are also primary risk factors. Other risk factors include: dietary factors, sexual factors, viral factors, dietary factors and medication exposure.

Prostate cancer starts developing locally in the prostate for a period of time and later extends around the prostate. It may extend to other parts, such as the tissues nearby, lymph nodes, lymph vessels and other sections of the body via blood. Due to its slow growth, most patients do not have symptoms and thus the prostate cancer may lead to death if diagnosed in later stages. Elderly men in Australia are recommended to undergo regular physical examinations, biopsy or the prostate-specific antigen testing.

Normally, there are three categories of prostate cancer, which are grouped using the TNM staging process. The first type is the localised prostate cancer. This type is known to develop within the prostate gland only. The second type is the locally advanced prostate cancer, which is identified by its development on the outer side of the prostate gland. The last type is the metastatic prostate cancer. It is described by its growth in other body parts. Some patients may have this type of cancer even when the prostate tumours are small.

Prostate cancer staging is a mechanism used to describe the depth of the tumour and how far it has spread. Staging is the key tool used by Australian prostate cancer doctors in establishing a patient’s prognosis. In this context, staging is defined by the TNM system. TNM stands for the following: “T” for tumour, “N” for lymph nodes and “M” for metastases. The other staging system used with prostate cancer is the assigning of letters, such as A, B, C, D to define the cancer.

The following are the various stages of prostate cancer:

1. Stage I: the cancer exists simply in the prostate and it is known to grow slowly.

2. Stage II: the cancer spread is not beyond the prostate gland, but it comprises of more than one
portion of the prostate, and may grow quicker than Stage I.

3. Stage III: the cancer spread is known to be outside the exterior layer of the prostate and into the nearby tissues, the glands that help produce semen.

4. Stage IV: the cancer spread has reached other portions of the body, including the bladder, liver, rectum, bone, lymph nodes or lungs.

The type of treatment an Australian suffering from prostate cancer receives is dependent on the phase of the cancer. The processes used in determining the phases of prostate cancer include: physical examination (looking, listening and examining), imaging techniques (PET, MRI, X-ray, CT and US), lab tests (tumour markers, urine, AST/ALT, and blood), pathology reports (cytology and biopsy), and surgical reports.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer symptoms are usually not detected during the early stages of the cancer development. The two major symptoms detected by a doctor in the early stages are, a lump in the prostate gland or an irregularity during a blood test.

Symptoms identified in advanced stages include the following: Difficulty in urinating that develops when the cancer enlarges and presses the urethra. Growth of the tumour blocks the flow of urine leading to the enlargement of the urinary bladder.

Due to the above events, patients in Australia may also experience dysuria, pain during urination. During later stages when the cancer has spread in other body parts, symptoms such as malaise, weight loss, fatigue and bone pain are identified. If the cancer spreads to the liver, this may causs abdominal pain and jaundice. In regards to the respiratory system, especially in relation to the lungs, the patient may suffer from coughing, difficulty in breathing and chest pains. Other symptoms include: faecal incontinence, leg weakness, frequent urination at night {nocturia}, and semen in urine.

Painful erections along with painful ejaculations are conditions which arise due to enlargement of the prostate gland affecting blood flow into the penis. Additionally, numbness and pain in the legs along with the thighs are known to emerge due to prostate cancer. One may suddenly not be able to move his or her legs, and could also cause swelling of the legs. Bone fractures are also considered as symptoms. Prostate cancer advances into the bone tissue and makes them weak and vulnerable to frequent fractures.

Causes of Prostate cancer

In recent research, the specific cause of prostate cancer has not been recognized but there are predisposing factors. Genetic and environmental factors are the major risk elements that can lead to the growth of prostate cancer. Men with a family background of prostate cancer are at a high possibility of obtaining the condition. Other genetic factors are race and specific gene variants. Age is a primary factor and elderly men who are above fifty years are prone to the disease. Poor diet can also lead to one developing the disease, as lack of vitamin D increases chances of the cancer growing.

Elderly men, as well as young men, are advised to maintain a healthy diet that consists of vegetables, fruits, minerals, vitamins and less meat intake. Men should avoid frequent intake of red meat since this may lead to the growth of the cancer. They should also do regular exercises, meditation and also join support groups. Obesity is also another cause of prostate cancer. Obesity may lead to a rapid development of the cancer and may also lead to death.

According to recent research, the enzyme PRSS3 is a cause of prostate cancer. It makes the cancer metastasize rapidly by changing the environment of the cancer cells. Sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea or syphilis increase the probability of the growth of prostate cancer. Exposure to the Agent Orange also leads to its development. Individuals exposed to the Agent Orange tend to develop the cancer in its advanced stages. Other causes include: smoking, cadmium exposure, high levels of testosterone in blood, and alcohol.


1. Cancer types: Prostate Cancer: http://www.cancervic.org.au/about-cancer/cancer_types/prostate_cancer

2. What is prostate cancer?: http://www.prostate.org.au/articleLive/pages/The-Prostate-%252d-What-is-it%3F.html

3. What is prostate cancer: http://www.prostate.org.au/articleLive/pages/What-is-Prostate-Cancer.html

4. Prostate cancer: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Prostate_cancer

5. Warning signs of prostate cancer: http://man.bodyandsoul.com.au/health+nutrition/news/prostate+cancer+warning+signs,13755

6. Prostate cancer symptoms: http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/73663/b1000/prostate-cancer-29/prostate-cancer-symptoms/