Prostate cancer is now known as the second most common cancer among men.
Since 1980 the incidence of this cancer has increased several-fold. Today, around 10,000 new cases are diagnosed in Poland every year, with 4,000 Poles dying of it each year. However, there is also good news.
There are a number of different tests that allow the development of the disease to be detected up to 20 years in advance.
A 2013 research carried out by PBS showed that two-thirds of Poles over the age of 40 have never tested themselves for prostate cancer (also known as neoplasm of the prostate). 27% of the respondents consider it unnecessary. Men admitted they start thinking about it when they turn 60. “The risk of developing this disease increases with age, but that does not mean it only affects seniors.Neoplasms of the prostate are even diagnosed in men in their thirties,” says Stefan Czarniecki, MD, a urologist at the Medicover Hospital. The risk group mainly includes men with a history of prostate cancer in their family. The risk is highest if someone with first- or second-degree kinship also developed the cancer. It is estimated that around 10% of all cases result from genetic factors.
Other factors that predispose men to this condition are diets rich in animal fat, being overweight, and obesity. That is also why in the case of this cancer doctors emphasise how incredibly important a healthy lifestyle and normal body weight are for prevention, in particular doing physical activity and having a healthy diet. “With this in mind, we should mainly strive to substitute animal fats with vegetable fats, but also to eat as many red vegetables as possible (especially tomatoes), which are rich in lycopene, considered a potential natural cure for cancer,” explains Stefan Czarniecki, MD. Scientists say eating soy products and products rich in selenium and vitamins C, D, and E reduces the risk.
For years without a hint
Prostate cancer has no characteristic symptoms and the associated ailments are very often typical for other issues with the prostate. These mostly include using the toilet more frequently (also at night), difficulty urinating, or the constant feeling of not having emptied one’s bladder completely. There may be a dozen or so years between the appearance of the first cancer cells and the development of visible symptoms, which is why it is important to test yourself regularly.
Until recently, the basic diagnostic methods were rectal examination and testing a person’s prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level. Unfortunately, the results of these tests do not offer 100% confidence, as aggressive prostate cancer can develop in men not only without symptoms, but also at a normal PSA level. On the other hand, an increased level of this antigen does not need to be caused by carcinogenic changes, but can merely be inflammation of the gland or slight hypertrophy.
Urologists now have more diagnostic methods at their disposal. “The PCA3 urine test can be performed if prostate cancer is suspected.It is an advanced and highly sensitive genetic test that allows for non-invasive diagnosis and differentiation between malignant and healthy tissue,” says Stefan Czarniecki, MD. The prostate can be examined with multi-parametric MRI (mpMRI) to locate the potential neoplastic foci and determine whether they extend to other structures, for example the lymph nodes. Another test, one of the most recent ones, is the 4Kscore. Blood is collected from the patient and is tested for prostate cancer using a special algorithm. The test involves determining the levels of four plasma kallikreins. “PSA is only one of the markers here.This allows us to gather more information about the patient’s health and also assess the risk of incidence of malignant prostate cancer up to 20 years in advance.However, you need to be patient, as the results arrive after around 4 weeks,” adds Stefan Czarniecki.
Considering the results of the tests, the patient’s health, his or her medical records, and potential genetic load, the doctor decides on the next course of action, for example a first or follow‑up biopsy. This procedure is irreplaceable in diagnostics, and can now be performed under MRI guidance, which allows for even greater precision during sample collection. All this increases the chance of detecting cancer at an early stage, when full recovery is possible.