Prostate Cancer Treatment: Understanding the 4 Stages and Early Intervention

Prostate cancer is a common cancer in elderly men. Understand the stages of prostate cancer and how traditional remedies can support the treatment.

Man holding this hands in front of his body

Prostate cancer refers to the abnormal growth of cells in the prostate gland in men. Thankfully, it is also usually slow-growing and carries a good prognosis if detected early. With new tests to detect prostate cancer and effective prostate cancer treatment, patients can hope to live long and healthy lives. Around 97% of men with prostate cancer survive beyond five years after the diagnosis.

The prostate gland is located just below the bladder in men and produces a fluid that makes up a part of semen. Traditional Chinese Medicine views the prostate gland is closely related to the TCM Kidney-Bladder system. Prostate cancer is caused by heat-damp retention, internal stagnation of blood, and a kidney qi deficiency. 

Prostate Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis 

A man placing both his arms and palms at the front area
Symptoms of prostate cancer are caused primarily due to urine retention.

Growths in the prostate gland may or may not be cancerous. Non-cancerous growths are called benign– they don’t spread to other parts of the body and are not a threat to life. Malignant or cancerous growths can spread to nearby areas and also distant organs.

Prostate cancer does not produce symptoms in the early stages and is difficult to detect unless you undergo screening tests. It may have symptoms similar to a benign growth, which include a dull pain in the pelvic area, frequent urination, difficulty in passing urine, blood in urine, painful ejaculation, pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs, loss of appetite, loss of weight and bone pain. 

The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age. It is higher if other men in your family have had it. Modern lifestyles such as eating more calories, refined sugars and animal fats, lack of exercise and obesity also link to prostate cancer. Therefore, you can reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, eating good amounts of fruits and vegetables, and exercising regularly.

You can detect prostate cancer in the early stages by proactively screening. You may do a blood test to check the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels or get an examination done by your doctor. It is advisable to do screening tests regularly after 55 years if you are at risk of developing prostate cancer. However, remember that these tests do not diagnose prostate cancer. Still, the doctors will perform more tests if these tests are positive. 

Prostate Cancer Stages 

The severity of prostate cancer can be judged by classifying it into various stages based on the size and spread of the tumour, lymph nodes involvement, and PSA level. Prostate cancer is divided into the following stages: 

  • Stage I: Early-stage when the cancer is slow-growing and localised to a small area in the prostate gland. PSA levels are low. 
  • Stage II: The cancer is confined to the prostate gland, PSA levels are medium or low. Cancer has a risk of growing and spreading outside the prostate gland. 
  • Stage III: The tumour is growing rapidly, PSA levels are high, and the cancer is growing into the surrounding areas. 
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other places such as lymph nodes, bones, and other body parts. 

Prostate Cancer Treatment 

Asian practitioner choosing herbs for treatment while talking on the phone
Traditional herbal remedies have been shown to prevent the spread of prostate cancer.

Surgery is the first step in treating prostate cancer. The doctors will try to remove as much of the tumour as possible. After the surgery, doctors may advise you to undergo radiotherapy or chemotherapy to remove any leftover cancer cells.

Thanks to the newer treatments, many men who undergo treatment get cured. Most prostate cancers grow slowly and take many years to progress. One in three men will survive after five years, even if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. 

TCM can play a supportive role in treating prostate cancer at all stages. Several studies have shown that herbal remedies can protect against prostate cancer; some even exert an anti-cancer effect.

Apart from improving the patient’s quality of life, TCM herbal remedies work to prevent the spread of cancer and prolong the patient’s life span. TCM practitioners use the principle of syndrome differentiation to understand the condition of the patients. Accordingly, they prescribe herbs to detoxify of tonify the body. Hence always seek the advice of a practitioner to decide the best treatment for you.

TCM Remedies for Post-Surgical Recovery

Surgery usually leaves the patient weak. TCM remedies that include tonifying herbs help to speed up the recovery, reduce the side effects of surgery and prevent further spread of cancer. The essence of chicken is a popular health drink with origins in TCM that is effectively reduces fatigue. However, before consuming this drink, consult a TCM physician first, as it may not be suitable for all post-surgery conditions.

According to TCM, radiotherapy causes heat toxicity. Physician Chu I Ta who specializes in cancer treatment, recommends using herbs such as scutellaria baicale (huang qin, 黄芩), Phellodendri Chinensis Cortex (huang bo, 黄柏), Radix Ophiopogonis (mai men dong, 麦门冬), Scrophularia ningpoensis (xuan shen, 玄参), Lithospermum erythrorhizon (zi cao, 紫草), etc to counteract the ill effects of radiotherapy. These remove the heat toxicity from the body and protect the body fluids. 

Most chemotherapy agents are toxic o the normal cells of the body and the cancer cells. Hence after chemotherapy, side effects like mouth ulcers, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea are common. Chemotherapy is often toxic to the liver as well. Physician Chu recommends using herbs like poria (fu ling, 茯苓), perilla leaves (zi su, 紫苏), Houpoea officinalis (hou pu, 厚朴), ginger, processed pinellia ternate (zhi ban xia or jiang ban xia, 制半夏或姜半夏), tangerine peel, Atractylodes macrocephala (bai zhu, 白术), Rose banksiae (mu xiang hua, 木香花) and Hawthorn (shan zha, 山楂) to overcome the toxic effects of chemotherapy-related to general fatigue , poor appetite, mucositis and digestive condition. 

With advances in prostate cancer treatment and diagnosis, men can look forward to living long active lives. Though treatments can be taxing, herbal remedies and healthy lifestyle habits can help restore your energy and vitality. 

References

  1. Cancer.Net. Prostate Cancer: Stages and Grades. [online] [Accessed on 8 December 2021] 
  2. CDC. Basic information about prostate cancer. [online] [Accessed on 8 December 2021] 
  3. Urology Care Foundation. What is Prostate Cancer?. [online] [Accessed on 8 December 2021] 
  4. Nutrients. Chinese Medicines in the treatment of prostate cancer.[online] [Accessed on 12 December 2021] 

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