The Facts About Prostate Cancer – Biology Research Paper
Introduction – Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death of American men. Every year, 40 000 men will die due to this cancer. Consequently, there has been much research into the causes and treatments of cancer; however, no one is sure of what causes prostate cancer and why it happens. What is Prostate Cancer? The prostate gland is a small,
egg-sized gland located in a man’s pelvis, below the bladder. This gland is responsible for producing a part of the fluid makes up semen. Prostate cancer begins when normal cells in the prostate gland transform into cancer cells; the reason behind this transformation is unknown. Prostate cancer is divided into 4 stages of development. In the first stage, the tumour is isolated within the prostate gland itself, and is hardly detectable. During the second stage, the tumour become noticeable, but is still isolated within the gland. The immediate surrounding organs are affect by the cancerous cells in the third stage. Finally, in the fourth stage, the cancerous cells invade the blood and lymph systems and spread to other parts of the body. Early prostate cancer is not associated with any particular set of symptoms. Some symptoms of late stage prostate cancer include blood in urine and semen, frequent or inability to urinate, pain during urination and ejaculation, and bone pain.
Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer
The diagnosis for prostate cancer is relatively simple. Many doctors will perform a DRE (Digital Rectal Examination) where a gloved and lubricated hand is inserted into the rectum to feel the shape and size of the prostate. The cancer is noticeable as a bump after the second stage of development. Other methods of testing for prostate cancer include a blood PSA level test. Prostate gland cells produce a protein called PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) where they are cancerous or not. Cancerous cells have a tendency to produce more PSA, however, and PSA levels elevate when cancer cells are present. PSA testing is not entirely reliable, largely due to the fact that as men age, the prostate gland increases in size and PSA levels tend to rise. Therefore, PSA testing tends to raise a lot of false alarms. The only actual way to diagnose cancer is through a biopsy. A small tissue of the prostate is obtained and examined for cancer. PSA and DRE tests only indicate if further testing is needed.
Treatments of Prostate Cancer
There are many ways to treat prostate cancer, ranging from old techniques to recent enhancements. Treatment of prostate cancer usually depends on the stage of cancer and its growth speed.
One treatment of prostate cancer is through radiation therapy, which uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells, or shrink tumours. Sophisticated computer programs and 3-D images ensure the accurate targeting of tumours. A newer form of radiation therapy is Conformal Proton Beam Radiation Therapy, which uses proton particles instead of energy rays. This form of treatment has a number of side effects, but they usually disappear when the therapy is over. Brachytherapy is another form of radiation treatment where tiny pellets containing radioactive material are implanted into the prostate. In the prostate, they release radioactive waves and kill cancer cells. The implant of these pellets is guided by exact ultrasound techniques.
Another popular form of treatment is hormone therapy. Hormone therapy does not cure cancer, but it is used to slow the growth of cancer and relieve symptoms of the patients. There are a number of different hormones used in hormone therapy, including estrogen, LH-RH (Leutenizing Hormone-Releasing Hormone) and antiandrogens. These hormones are administered to lower the production of testosterone or block the effect of male hormones on cancer cells, since it is known that male hormones, especially testosterone, has a stimulating effect on the growth of cancer cells.
Surgery is another form of treatment that patients can choose. Surgical removal of the testes, or orchiectomy, can slow the growth of cancer, since the testes produce the bulk of testosterone. Like hormone therapy, the removal of testes cannot cure cancer. Unlike orchiectomy, surgical removal of the prostate, also known as radical prostatectory, can cure cancer. If the cancer is localized and contained within the prostate, the prostate can be removed to block the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. Advancements in technology have allowed for the reduction of side effects in this form of surgery.
Alternatives to the treatment options mentioned include cryosurgery and chemotherapy. Cryosurgery and chemotherapy aren’t as widely used as radical prostatectory or hormone therapy, because of the damage they can cause to normal cells. Cryosurgery is the treatment of localized cancer by freezing and destroying the prostate. There is renewed interest in this area, due to the technological advancements. Previously, there had been concerns of the damage to surrounding organs, since the freezing process involved temperatures as low as -195?C. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cells. Drugs enter the body and destroy cells that divide rapidly, such as cancer cells. The problem with chemotherapy is that the drugs have no way of identifying cancer cells from normal body cells. Consequently, normal body cells may be affected, and chemotherapy is not as popular.
Researchers are still trying to develop new and effective ways of diagnosing and treating cancer because of the unreliability of PSA testing and inadequate treatment options for many patients. In fact, recent research has found potential additions to the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. Since PSA testing is still largely unreliable, there have been attempts to create a new test for diagnosing the disease. Researchers have found that cancer cells have 20 genes that are over-expressed. Roughly 95% of more than 300 prostate tissue samples with cancer contained the genes, and with the genes a specific protein. The protein, a-methyl-CoA racemase, or AMACR, could prove to be a useful addition to current diagnosing tools, if it turns out to be more accurate and reliable than PSA testing. AMACR has also been found in other types of cancer, such as breast, bladder, and lung cancer, suggesting that AMACR could be used in diagnosing those types of cancer as well. In addition, scientists have succeeded in tracking the spread of prostate cancer in mice by using firefly proteins to light up tumours. By developing a virus-vector that targets cancer cells based on expressions of PSA, scientists were able to isolate prostate cancer cells in mice. The virus-vector contains firefly genes that produce a glowing protein in the presence of PSA. As a result, even small tumours glowed in the mice. Using this vector, scientists could theoretically deliver toxic genes to the cancer cells after isolating them; however, complications arise – the cameras that detect the light in mice cannot be used in humans. Therefore, the use of this virus-vector on humans could be delayed.
Although prostate cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, all this new development and research can only mean hope for patients. The existing techniques and the emergence of the new may mean that prostate cancer could be conquered in the near future. One can only hope that this dream will come to pass, precipitated by the amazing technological advancements of our time.