Prostate Cancer

By Nancy Steinbach

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

Last month, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced that he is suffering from prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States, other than skin cancer.

The prostate is a small gland in men that is important for sexual activity. Cancer of the prostate usually develops in men over the age of fifty. Prostate cancer can kill if the cancer spreads outside the gland. But it can be cured if it is discovered early.

To find the disease, a doctor performs a physical examination and a blood test to find a protein called PSA, or prostate-specific antigen. An injured or diseased prostate lets PSA protein flow into the blood. The test measures the amount of PSA in the blood. The more PSA that is found, the greater the chance the man has prostate cancer.

For example, a normal PSA is four or less. Ten or more is high. If a man has a high PSA level, the doctor removes small pieces of the prostate and inspects them for signs of cancer.

Men with early prostate cancer have a number of treatment choices. One treatment is an operation to remove the cancerous gland. Another is radiation. Experts say radiation is a good choice for men too old or weak for the operation.

Experts say the operation or radiation can cure most early prostate cancers. However, both treatments can affect a man in other ways. The treatments can make a man unable to perform sexually. Or they can make a man unable to control the release of liquid waste from his body.

Some men with early prostate cancer may not need any immediate treatment. Doctors suggest this for old men or those with other serious health problems if the cancer is small and not causing any problems. Treatment can be started later if the cancer grows. Prostate cancer that has spread can be treated with anti-cancer drugs or hormones.

New reports say Chinese herbs are also successful against prostate cancer. Some studies have shown that the herbs can extend the lives of men who have not been helped by other treatments. Two studies showed a reduction of PSA in the blood of fifty percent or more. However, use of the herbs is linked to an increased chance of developing dangerous blood clots. Doctors say much more research is needed before these herbs can be considered generally safe for treating prostate cancer.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English