Prostate cancer: symptoms, diagnosis, therapy

Cancer of the prostate gland mainly occurs in old age. More information on the chances of recovery from prostate cancer, its signs, early detection and treatment

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The prostate gland (blue) lies below the urinary bladder

© W & B / Dr. Ulrike Möhle / arr. Szczesny

Prostate cancer - briefly explained

Compared to other types of cancer, prostate cancer often grows rather slowly. Sometimes, therefore, no therapy is necessary at all, but under close medical supervision one can first wait to see how the tumor develops. Surgery, radiation therapy, and medication can be used for treatment. Focal therapies are being tested. In some cases, the processes are combined. In the case of daughter tumors, chemotherapy can also be useful. The age and health of the patient as well as the extent and malignancy of the tumor play an important role in the selection of the appropriate therapy.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer (prostate cancer) is a malignant tumor of the male prostate gland. Its often slow growth distinguishes it from other malignant tumors. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in Germany, with more than 60,000 new cases each year.

Cancer of the prostate gland is rare before the age of 50. If the father, brother, uncle or grandfather developed prostate cancer at a young age, early detection examinations are advisable earlier than the usual 45 years, for example at 35.

© W & B / Jörg Neisel

The prostate (circled in red) surrounds the urethra in a ring directly below the bladder outlet. Behind the prostate lies the rectum, from where the prostate gland is palpated with the finger by the doctor as part of the early diagnosis.

The prostate is one of the male reproductive organs. Part of the seminal fluid is created in it, another part is formed by the two seminal vesicles (purple) that lie on the outside of the prostate. A large part of the male sex hormone testosterone, which controls the growth and function of the prostate, is produced in the testes (testes).

The tumor initially spreads within the prostate. However, as it continues to grow, it can break through the connective tissue capsule that surrounds the organ and grow into neighboring tissue. The seminal vesicles, urinary bladder and rectum can then be affected.

Where do metastases form in prostate cancer?

The longer the disease lasts, the greater the likelihood that cancer cells will spread through the body via lymph or blood vessels and form daughter tumors (metastases). These can be found in the lymph nodes of the pelvis, for example, but also in other organ systems of the body. By far the most frequently affected are the bones (spine, rib and pelvic bones). But metastases can also occur in the liver and lungs.

How Long Can You Live With Prostate Cancer?

That depends, among other things, on how advanced the tumor is. Almost all men survive prostate cancer if it is detected early enough to be confined to the prostate gland. The number of (diagnosed) new prostate cancer cases has been increasing for several decades without increasing mortality. The relative 5-year survival rate - a measure of the probability of survival of treated prostate cancer patients - has now increased to around 93 percent.

A clear distinction must be made between the benign enlargement of the prostate gland (benign prostate hyperplasia, BPH), which can cause problems with urination in particular, but is always limited to the prostate.