The prostate is a male-specific organ involved in both sexual and urinary functioning. It is small and positioned in front of the bladder. The urethra, which carries semen and urine out of the body, passes through the prostate. Semen is partly produced within the prostate and then stored there, keeping it healthy before it’s excreted.
As men age, it is very common for the prostate to enlarge or for cancer to develop. Only non-melanoma skin cancer is a more common cancer among men. Men 65 or over make up 60% of prostate cancer cases, so the risk does increase with age. One in seven men will eventually be diagnosed. Thankfully, prostate cancer generally stays confined and is extremely slow moving.
Because it is slow moving and confined to the prostate, often people will show no symptoms for a long time. With no symptoms in early stages, regular prostate exams become a necessity in order to achieve early detection. Many men will get a yearly exam once they reach 40 or 50 years old. Different doctors have very different recommendations on when to start exams and how often they should be done. The slow moving, isolated character of the illness make some physicians believe early, frequent exams have more downside than upside, while others disagree.
Treatment varies based on many factors. If prostate cancer forms later in life, it may not be worth treating since one will likely pass from other causes before it grows enough to be a problem. In these cases, doctors employ a “watchful waiting” method. The tumor will be monitored to make sure it doesn’t suddenly advance or spread beyond the prostate. For those who are younger or have more aggressive prostate cancer, there are a number of ways to treat it before it becomes a problem.
Treatment options include hormone treatments, since certain hormones can spur prostate cancer cells to grow. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are other options, as they are with many cancers. Surgery to remove the cancerous area of the prostate is also common. A newer method that shows a lot of progress, is to use high intensity focused ultrasound waves (HIFU) directed toward the specific cells that need to be eliminated. This is less intrusive and has very little recovery time and few complications.
Here in the Raleigh Durham area of North Carolina we are lucky to have a HIFU expert, Dr. Frank Tortora, who has been practicing the procedure for over 10 years. Dr. Tortora is one of Associated Urologists of North Carolina’s 15 board certified urologists. Men in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Wake Forest, Clayton, Dunn, Clinton and the surrounding areas should contact Associated Urologists of North Carolina to see if a HIFU procedure with Dr. Tortora would be right for them or if they have any other concerns with their prostate. AUNC can be reached at (844) 371-HIFU (4438).