Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, not including skin cancer. The prostate gland lies just below the bladder and in front of the rectum, and is part of the reproductive system in that it helps make semen. Cancer occurs when normal prostate cells develop into abnormal cells that grow rapidly.
Each year in the United States, there are approximately 180,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed and about 26,000 deaths from prostate cancer. About in 1 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer.
Risk factors for developing prostate cancer include:
• Age greater than 50
• Family history of prostate cancer
• African-American race
• Being overweight or obese
Prostate health is typically measured in two main ways: by the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) on blood testing, and via a digital rectal exam, where the prostate gland can be felt for any irregularities. This is important, as early-stage prostate cancer usually does not cause any symptoms. However, more advanced prostate cancer can cause symptoms such as:
• A weak urinary stream
• Needing to urinate more often, especially at night
• Blood in the urine or semen
• Erectile dysfunction
• Weakness in the legs or feet
• Back or hip pain
A definitive diagnosis of prostate cancer requires a biopsy, which is usually performed by a urologist. Prostate cancer is graded according to the Gleason system, which assigns a score based on how similar (or dissimilar) the biopsy tissue is compared to normal prostate tissue. The total Gleason score can range from 2 to 10, with 2 being the most similar to normal prostate cells and 10 being the most dissimilar. The lower the Gleason score is, the less aggressive the growth and spread tends to be.
Because many prostate cancers are slow growing, sometimes the recommended approach will be to monitor the tumor. This is known as watchful waiting. When the tumor is felt to be more aggressive, conventional options such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy are considered. These treatment options must be chosen carefully, because side effects can frequently cause symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, inability to achieve orgasm, and urinary incontinence.
In integrative oncology, we build upon these treatments by strategically incorporating nutrition, supplementation, and other innovative therapies in an attempt to balance treatment efficacy with a minimization of side effects. This is done in a personalized way, because each patient is unique in his or her diagnosis, medical history, and treatment goals.