Calculating your Risk for Prostate Cancer

May 28th, 2015

Age is a strong risk factor for developing the cancer. The older you are the more likely you may be diagnosed with the disease. Between age 40 and 49 the ratio is about 5 in 10,000 men. At 50, it jumps to about 47 in 10,000. Over 50, nearly 150 in 10,000.

Race is a second factor. African American and Caribbean men are at higher risk than men of other races. And their cancers are generally more aggressive than men of other races. The reasons are not completely understood and are being explored. Some evidence suggests their diets and nutrition are involved. Often their conditions are not discovered until at very late stages of the disease. Scientists are now convinced that other yet unknown genetic issues are in play. And that is where much of today’s research is focused.

 Family history and inheritance present a third risk. The belief is that an inherited faulty gene from parents causes the disease. Having a grandfather with prostate cancer increases the odds of one’s getting the disease. If your father or brother have the cancer some studies show an eleven fold increase in prostate cancer susceptibility.

How did I get prostate cancer?

May 28th, 2015

A common question a patient asks. We have no easy answers but we have some possibilities to offer. Cells in the body are constantly dividing, reaching maturity and dying in a controlled programmed manner. The process is called apoptosis. If the process gets screwed up and stops, cells that should die off don’t and they continue to proliferate uncontrolled. That’s when they lump together and form a tumor. The tumor can then spread and invade other sites in the body.

Prostate cancers typically begin in the part of the prostate gland that is closest to the rectum. When a tumor reaches the size of about 1 cm, the doctor can perform a DRE (digital rectal exam) and detect the presence of the tumor. The next step is a biopsy to confirm the finding. That was the principle test until 1986. That’s when the PSA test was inaugurated. Today, the PSA test can detect elevated levels of prostate-specific antigen—signaling presence of a tumor—well before the tumor has grown to a size that can be felt during a DRE.

While researchers are homing in on the causes of prostate cancer, they can already point to critical risk factors for influencing whether or not cancer will develop. They include age, race and family history.

Blogophobia

May 28th, 2015

Recently some students in my college journalism class brought me up short when they told me their information gathering on the internet lasted seconds, not even minutes. Journalists “in the making” no less. They said they had no patience to read online though they admitted the internet was their prime source of news and information. But it had to be brief!

What if information is complex and yet vital? And can’t easily be offered in capsule form? Prostate cancer information for instance is a perfect example. What I noticed of late is that the number of hits to this site has dropped off like a stone. My guess is that boomers who need this information are changing their reading habits, imitating the X’ers. That got us to thinking. Our mission to help prostate patients manage their disorders remains the same, but we are aiming at moving targets: our readers. And we’ve been considering new ways to meet our mission: to help patients by delivering up-to-the minute analysis of prostate cancer advances so they can understand how they will affect their health. In other words, our goal is to bring readers the critical information they need to take care of their medical care. In short, to help them make intelligent decisions that will save lives.

If you have not scrolled on, please know we are considering new changes to this website that we hope will keep you tuned here for more than a nanosecond. And we also want you to read some sad and shocking facts. In 2014, more than 230,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer. Some 30,000 died from the disease.

Now, it’s true you can go online, type in “prostate cancer “ and in a few split seconds get more than 3 million hits on the subject. What’s also true is that a lot of that info will baffle you. You’ll read all about the latest stuff on robotic assisted prostatectomies and radiation wonder treatments that promise great outcomes and few side effects. But the number of unsubstantiated claims abound on the internet. And there is no real way for most patients to know what information is substantial and what is misleading or untrue. Even potentially harmful.

Our deal is to help patients make the all important life decisions. Our job is to help manage possible side effects of radiation therapies and radical prostatectomies as well as what to do if prostate cancer recurs.

There is no one-size-fits all prostate cancer treatment. The ability to make intelligent decisions requires knowledge of the disease. This blog and our book, taken together, are meant to provide that need and comfort.

 

To make an informed decision, in short, patients should read and educate themselves and spend time with their doctors to get all pertinent questions answered. We are here to help make that possible. Changes here are coming.

Harvard Med School Updates Prostate Cancer Tests

April 3rd, 2015

Harvard Medical School brings us up to date with a summary of how researchers are looking for better biomarkers to screen for the presence of prostate cancer.

Biomarkers, to begin with, are indicators that help differentiate cancer cells from normal ones. Since the 90s we have relied on PSA ( prostate specific antigens ) tests to help distinguish prostate cancer cells from normal ones. What this PSA test does is look for high levels of PSA in the blood which MIGHT indicate the presence of cancer cells. But the problem is it might NOT. It could simply indicate there is something going on with the prostate that is not cancerous.

It could simply suggest a benign condition. Perhaps the prostate is enlarged—yet benign. So the PSA test, at the moment the only tool in the tool box, to help hunt for prostate cancer cells could present a benign condition of the gland. Even if the PSA proves to be positive, the test alone does not tell you which cancers are aggressive and need treatment and which are slow-growing and can be managed more conservatively. So, scientists are busy looking for other tests that can clearly identify prostate cancer and tests that can determine whether a detectable cancer is aggressive or not.

Here is a list of promising research methods currently being carried out by cancer institutes and universities:

 Urine-based biomarkers: The prostate releases material that can be detected and measured in the urine. New urine tests can detect changes in genes and biomarkers that are specific to prostate cancer. The results of these neTagsw tests can help pinpoint whether a biopsy is necessary.

 Genetic tests of prostate tissue: Scientists are looking now at newer and more sophisticated tests that detect markers of specific genes that help doctors distinguish between the slow-growing and more aggressive forms of prostate cancer. These tests can even find hidden cancers in men whose biopsies were negative.

 Circulating tumor cells: Cancer spreads when tumor cells break away and get swept into the bloodstream. That’s when they begin growing in other parts of the body—bones, lymph nodes, etc. Another test being investigated is called “liquid biopsy.” Here a simple blood test captures and measures circulating tumor cells and their corresponding telltale markers. It should be noted that this kind of test is purely investigative and not yet readily available. Yet, when it will be it could one day reduce the need for follow-up biopsies and help determine when prostate cancer treatment is working.

 

We’re Back!

April 2nd, 2015

Sorry for the disruption but our site is now back up again.  Our mission continues.

More Reasons to Knock off Smoking

February 15th, 2015

According to Scientific American magazine, cigarette smoke remains “ the single greatest controllable risk factor for lung cancer and the most common preventable cause of all premature deaths in the United States.” Statistics show that half of all smokers die prematurely of diseases that are related to smoking.

And while the figures go on to point out that the risk of lung cancer is greatest among those who begin smoking at an early age, the practice of daily smoking among many young people continues unabated. More shocking still is the number of hospital and health related employees who should know better, but who continue to smoke. You see many parading outside of their institutions, some even in surgical gowns.

For prostate cancer patients, word from a study at New York’s famed Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center could not be more sobering: “ those who were still smoking at the time of their radiation therapy for prostate cancer had worse outcomes following radiation treatment compared to those who had never smoked.”

In that same study on a review of 2,156 prostate cancer patients at MSKCC treated with radiation therapy between 1988 and 2005, compared to non-smokers and smokers had:

  • A 40 percent increased risk for PSA relapse following treatment
  • Double the risk in developing distant metastases
  • Double the risk of death from prostate cancer
  • An 80 percent increase in urinary incontinence, obstruction

According to doctors at Johns Hopkins if you stop smoking, within 24 hours your heart rate returns to normal. Your blood level of carbon monoxide declines. Carbon monoxide cuts down the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Your risk of a heart attack declines. And your lung function improves significantly over time.

Doubters of scientific proof are quick to suggest that e-cigarettes are perfectly safe. E-cigarettes are gaining in popularity in the U.S. Manufacturers, retailers and advertisers are claiming that these cigarettes are “healthier” than ordinary cigarettes and can even help people stop smoking altogether.

The truth is that these battery-operated e-cigarettes heat up a liquid containing nicotine mixed with flavorings and create a vapor or mist that is then inhaled.

But and it’s a big but—there is no scientific long term evidence to support the claims that are made that these products are safe. The jury on e-cigarettes is still out.

And for now, the best advice remains: Stop smoking. FDA strategies to put down those cigarettes include: nicotine-replacement products; oral medications like Chantix; and when all else fails, counseling and support.

 

Nighttime Urintating: What Can You Do About It?

February 15th, 2015

Many prostate patients suffer from what is called nocturia. That’s but a fancy of way of saying they have to run to the bathroom frequently to urinate at night. But you don’t have to be a prostate patient to experience nocturia. In fact, you don’t even have to be a male. Men and women alike suffer from nocturia and find themselves running to the bathroom a lot at night. It can disturb your partner in addition to disrupting your own sleep. So, can anything be done about it or must you go about suffering this indignity? The answer is, yes, Virginia, you can do something about it. But before we tell you what you can do, let’s tell you what’s going on here and why you are on the run at bedtime.

First of all, prostate patients, if you have an enlarged prostate, you may find yourself suffering from nighttime urinary frequency. And many men complain that despite what is called prostate-directed treatment offered by your urologist just isn’t doing the trick.

Nocturia is caused by an aging bladder, and it’s the result of changes in the bladder wall and changes in nerve signals that tell the bladder to relax. So just as we find that our joints and muscles are not as flexible when we are older as they were when we were younger, we find that there is a loss of elasticity in the bladder as we age. And with loss of elasticity in the bladder, pressure within the bladder rises at lower volumes and the brain receives a signal more frequently that the bladder is full! Result: a trip to the bathroom. Besides, there’s our biologic clock messing us up. It’s responsible for the body’s daily rhythms, and while it’s supposed to tell the body to re-absorb water so we can sleep undisturbed, guess what? It slips up and there is no watchmaker in sight. So it’s back to the bathroom once again.

Now that you understand urinary mechanics 101, what can you do about it?

1)    Significantly cut back on all beverages in the evening. Especially, drinks containing caffeine and/or alcohol.

2)    Wear compression stockings. If you are retaining fluid in the lower part of your legs and feet, wearing compression stockings before going to bed could help reduce the fluid retention and the increased urination at night.

3)    If you are on diuretic medications (water pills) for treating high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about changing the time you take the pills. A lot of patients find that when they take their meds in mid to late afternoon—6 hours before bedtime—their nighttime urination problems are resolved.

If you suffer from sleep apnea, speak to your doctor about ways you can adjust your CPAP (continuous positive-flow airway pressure ) device. There are special ways for apnea patients to reduce nocturia.

 

 

No Info Slowdown…We’re Up to Speed

January 10th, 2015

You may be wondering why you haven’t  seen many daily postings with regard to advances in prostate cancer  research of late.  That’s not because we have been derelict or fallen off the wagon, so to speak.  It’s simply because we post what we consider significant advances that you can relate to or we think you might find of interest.  It’s not that a lot of research has not been going on.  But much of it has been in the realm of genetics and is either too esoteric or too nascent to report.  For those who want or need to find out about the disease, we can assure you the information you need is all here.  What you have to do is scroll to the bottom of our blog pages ( older entries ) and read what has been posted.  We believe you can find it all on this site without the need to search the internet.  If you need to know more and don’t  find it posted, please let us know and we will do our best to get you answers. Be assured when there is a major breakthrough, we will post it immediately. Of course, if you want to have the information at hand and in your own hands, please consider buying our book.

The Authors

Prostate Cancer Survivors Speak Their Minds

 

 

Gene Repair Studies Could Lead to Killing Cancer Cells

January 2nd, 2015

Research to discover “killing fields” for cancer cells is in high gear. Latest efforts to find ways to destroy cancer cells comes from laboratories at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. The studies we refer to focus on combining genetic and biochemical components. Here the idea is to increase the presence of a tumor-suppressing protein ( called p53BP1) that, in turn, leads cancer cells to self-destruct. What the protein does is weaken cancer cells, leaving them susceptible to existing cancer-fighting drugs.

Now, the idea is to take the lab findings and test result in animal models, and if the findings hold up in animal studies, they could hold the promise of increasing the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy in shrinking—even  eliminating tumors. ( Details can be found in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Nov 24, 2014 issue. )

The researchers had been trying to figure out how to repair breaks in DNA strands. Breaks that may have been caused by radiation, chemical agents or bodily functions. That’s when they happened upon a surprising circumstance: they discovered a way to increase the protein p53BP1. Next came the idea that increasing this protein intentionally could result into weaking cancer cells. A Eureka moment.

The lead scientist, Dr. Upiwei Zhang, assistant professor of pharmacology at Case Western, said, “ Our discovery one day could lead to a gene therapy where extra amounts of the 53BP1 protein will be generated to make cancer cells more vulnerable to cancer treatment. He explained that the idea is to have the proteins trick the cancer cells to go to a fork in the road and take the wrong turn—one that would lead to their destruction. In layman’s language professor Zhang says ultimately we would eventually want to build up the number of these 53BP1 proteins in patients to make their cancer cells vulnerable to radiation therapy and chemotherapy drugs.

 

 

SWITCHING OFF PROSTATE TUMOR GROWTH

November 15th, 2014

SWITCHING OFF PROSTATE TUMOR GROWTH

 

A new study from the Universities of Nottingham and Bristol in the UK may have found a new way to halt the spread of prostate tumors. The concept works like this: Prostate cancer cells multiply by building blood vessels that, like pipelines, deliver the nutrients that fuel cancer cells that spread. What if you can blow up the pipelines? In this case, halt the ability of the new blood cells to develop.

That’s what researchers have been working on. They’ve found a molecule they call SRPK1 that is needed to form the new blood vessels. The process of building these new blood vessels is known as Angiogenesis. Halting angiogenesis means blocking the SRPK1 molecule—which in turn means blocking the ability of the prostate tumor to grow—which in turn means no growth of the tumor!

Big news if researchers can replicate in humans what they found in mice!  Inhibiting SRPK1 means putting an end to the growth of the prostate tumor.

Chief investigator Professor David Bates (Division of Cancer and Stem Cells at the U of Nottingham) says: “Our results point to a novel way of treating prostate cancer and may have wider implications to be used in several types of cancers.”

Complete discussion can be found in the current journal Oncogene.

 

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Hippocrates

~ Father of Medicine