Prostate cancer: causes, symptoms, treatment, prognosis

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers found in men. If you look at which type of cancer most often leads to death, it is lung cancer, prostate cancer is in second place in men. From the age of 50, men have an increased risk of prostate cancer. What are the causes and symptoms of prostate cancer, how can the cancer be treated and what is the prognosis? Research is being conducted into a new detection method to spare men an annoying examination. What is this method based on? An impressive documentary about journalist Mark Bos, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 46: Retour Hemel.

Article content

  • Prostate
  • Prostate cancer
  • Causes of prostate cancer
  • Symptoms of prostate cancer
  • Prostate cancer diagnosis
  • Prostate cancer treatment
  • Prostate cancer prognosis
  • New developments (HIFU, new detection method)
  • Impressive documentary by Mark Bos: Retour Hemel



The prostate is also called the prostate. It is a gland the size of a walnut and lies beneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra. The gland cells produce fluid rich in proteins, which is released when the semen is discharged. The prostate is part of the urogenital system in men, these are all organs that are involved with reproduction and the formation and release of urine.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is a malignant tumor in the prostate. Prostate cancer almost never occurs in men under the age of forty, from the age of 50 men have an increased risk of prostate cancer. Sometimes you see that the disease occurs more often within a family. Prostate cancer affects darker people more often and almost never men from Asian countries. Prostate cancer has been diagnosed more frequently since the 1970s, largely because testing for a prostate-specific antigen is increasingly common. The tumor in prostate cancer grows slowly, especially in older people. Sometimes there are no symptoms that suggest cancer.

Causes of prostate cancer

  • The cause of prostate cancer is not known .
  • It is possible that testosterone (male sex hormone) influences the growth and spread of the tumor.
  • Prostate cancer sometimes runs in families. In one in ten cases there is a hereditary factor. With the latter cause, a person usually develops cancer before the age of sixty.
  • Diet may play a role: consuming a lot of fat and proteins. Prostate cancer is more common in men in Western Europe and the United States than in the rest of the world.
  • Prostate cancer is not contagious.


Symptoms of prostate cancer

The malignant tumor often develops slowly and no symptoms may occur. If someone has the complaints described below, it may also be a benign enlargement of the prostate or an infection of the urinary tract. It is also possible that a person only develops complaints once the tumor has already spread.

Symptoms that may occur:

  • Urinating is difficult or impossible at all;
  • Suffer from dripping;
  • The stream of urine may be very weak;
  • A person has to urinate frequently, especially during the night;
  • Sometimes bloody urine;
  • Sometimes cloudy urine;
  • A painful, burning sensation when urinating.

After metastasis (to bones, lymph nodes), the following symptoms may occur:

  • Pain in the back;
  • The lymph nodes may be swollen;
  • Loss of body weight.


Prostate cancer diagnosis

Go to the doctor if you think you have prostate cancer: because of the symptoms you notice or because prostate cancer runs in the family.
The following examinations can be done:

  • The doctor will examine the prostate by means of a rectal examination;
  • Blood tests: PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) and alkaline phosphatase are examined;
  • Ultrasound and a biopsy may be done during this examination;
  • If prostate cancer is discovered, an MRI scan or CT scan may be performed to investigate whether the cancer has spread.


Prostate cancer treatment

  • The treatment chosen depends on the stage of the disease, the age and the general health of the person.
  • If the cancer is in a small part of the prostate and someone is elderly, it may be decided not to treat, but to check someone regularly.
  • If the cancer is only in the prostate gland and the person is otherwise healthy, it may be suggested to remove the prostate.
  • Irradiation is also a possibility, possibly in combination with cryotherapy. The latter means that the cancer cells are killed by freezing the prostate tissue.
  • If there has been metastases to other places in the body, there may be no cure, but the disease process can be slowed down considerably by hormone therapy. This counteracts the production or effect of testosterone and therefore also the influence of the hormone on the cancer. Very occasionally, the testicles are surgically removed to halt the production of testosterone. Ask your doctor what influence this has on libido and potency.


Prostate cancer prognosis

If prostate cancer is discovered, it may not cause any symptoms. The cancer does not have to threaten someone’s life. It may sometimes be better to opt for regular check-ups and no further treatment, especially in elderly people. If there is a tumor only in the prostate, the prognosis after surgery will be good. An operation can lead to impotence or urinary incontinence. If there are metastases, complete healing is not possible, but the complaints can often be kept under control for a long time through hormone therapy. And who knows what is possible in the future, keep a close eye on developments.

New developments (HIFU, new detection method)

  1. HIFU or High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound could be described as operating without cutting . This technique with sound waves uses ultrasound (this is a sound higher than a human ear can hear) to raise the temperature to above sixty degrees Celsius. All (tumor) cells within the beam are destroyed.
  2. March 2014 : Research is being conducted into a new detection method that would save men a painful examination. In collaboration with the AMC Amsterdam, TU/e has developed a patient-friendly research method that can reduce the need for biopsies and ultimately even make them unnecessary. A way has been developed to see where someone’s prostate cancer is located based on ultrasound scanners. To ensure that the devices see a difference between healthy tissue or tumor tissue (a tumor produces many small blood vessels), a contrast fluid is used once. The examination takes a very short time and the results are available very quickly. The research is cheaper than taking biopsies that need to be analyzed. Next year a major comparative study will take place between the old method and the new method. If everything goes well, it is expected that the method will also be available to other men from 2016.


Impressive documentary by Mark Bos: Retour Hemel

Journalist Mark Bos was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 46. Doctors say he is terminally ill, but Mark doesn’t accept that. He makes a documentary about his search for healing: Return to Heaven. Mark is the main character and cameraman in Retour Hemel. As a viewer we see him visit doctors, but he also visits alternative healers. Iceman Wim Hof appears in the documentary and the main character’s journey to Kilimanjaro is very impressive. The documentary was broadcast by Omroep Max on NPO 2 on January 26, 2015. Mark Bos passed away on May 1, 2015.

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