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Prostate Cancer

What is prostate cancer?

Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. Prostate cancer begins in the cells of the prostate. The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system. It lies just below the bladder. It makes fluid that is part of semen.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. It often grows very slowly. If it does not spread to other parts of the body, it may not cause serious problems. But sometimes prostate cancer can grow quickly and spread to other parts of the body. This kind of prostate cancer is serious.

What causes prostate cancer?

Researchers don't know for sure what causes prostate cancer. They do know that it happens when there are changes in the genetic material (DNA).

Sometimes these genetic changes are inherited, meaning that you are born with them. There are also certain genetic changes that happen during your lifetime that can raise your risk of prostate cancer. But often the exact cause of these genetic changes is unknown.

Who is more likely to develop prostate cancer?

Anyone who has a prostate can develop prostate cancer. But certain factors can make you more likely to develop it:

  • Age. Your chance of developing prostate cancer increases as you get older. Prostate cancer is rare in people under age 50.
  • Family health history. Your risk of prostate cancer is higher if you have a parent, sibling, or child who has or has had prostate cancer.
  • Race. African Americans are more likely to get prostate cancer. They're also more likely to:
    • Get prostate cancer at a younger age.
    • Have more serious prostate cancer.
    • Die from prostate cancer.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer doesn't always cause symptoms, especially at first. If it does cause symptoms, they may include:

  • Problems urinating (peeing), such as:
    • A urine stream that's weak, hard to start, or starts and stops
    • Suddenly needing to urinate right away
    • Urinating often, especially at night
    • Pain or burning when urinating
    • Blood in your urine or semen
  • Pain in your lower back, hips, or pelvis that does not go away
  • Painful ejaculation (the release of semen through the penis during orgasm)

But many of these symptoms may be from other common prostate problems that aren't cancer, such as an enlarged prostate.

You should discuss your prostate health with your health care provider if you:

  • Have symptoms that could be prostate cancer
  • Have a high risk for developing prostate cancer
  • Had a screening test that suggests you could have prostate cancer
What are prostate tests and how is prostate cancer diagnosed?

Tests which check for prostate cancer include:

  • A digital rectal exam (DRE). In this exam, your provider feels your prostate for lumps or anything unusual by inserting a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum.
  • A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. A high PSA blood level may be a sign of prostate cancer. But many other things can cause high PSA levels, too.
  • Imaging tests. These tests may use ultrasound or MRI to make pictures of your prostate.

If these tests show that you might have prostate cancer, the next step is usually a prostate biopsy. A biopsy is the only way to diagnose prostate cancer.

During a biopsy, a doctor uses a hollow needle to remove some prostate tissue. The tissue is studied under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

What are the treatments for prostate cancer?

Your treatment options usually depend on your age, your general health, and how serious the cancer is. Your treatment may include one or more of options:

  • Observation,which is mostly used if you are older, your prostate cancer isn't likely to grow quickly, and you don't have symptoms or you have other medical conditions. Your doctor will keep checking on your cancer over time so to see whether you will need to start treatment for the cancer. There are two types of observation:
    • Watchful waiting means having little or no testing. If symptoms begin or change, you will get treatment to relieve them, but not to treat the cancer.
    • Active surveillance means having regular tests to see if your prostate cancer has changed. If the tests show the cancer is starting to grow or if you develop symptoms, then you will have treatment to try to cure the cancer.
  • Surgery to remove your prostate gland may be an option if your cancer hasn't spread outside of your prostate.
  • Radiation therapy uses high energy to kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing.
  • Hormone therapy blocks cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow. It may include taking medicines or having surgery to remove the testicles.
  • Chemotherapy uses medicines to kill cancer cells, slow their growth, or stop them from spreading. You might take the drugs by mouth, as an injection (shot), as a cream, or intravenously (by IV).
  • Targeted therapy uses drugs or other substances that attack specific cancer cells. This treatment causes less harm to healthy cells than radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy helps your own immune system to fight cancer.
Can prostate cancer be prevented?

Making healthy lifestyle changes may help to prevent some prostate cancers. These changes include:

  • Being at a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting enough exercise
  • Eating healthy foods

NIH: National Cancer Institute

Rickets

Rickets causes soft, weak bones in children. It usually occurs when they do not get enough vitamin D, which helps growing bones absorb the minerals calcium and phosphorous. It can also happen when calcium or phosphorus levels are too low.

Your child might not get enough vitamin D if he or she:

  • Has dark skin
  • Spends too little time outside
  • Has on sunscreen all the time when out of doors
  • Doesn't eat foods containing vitamin D because of lactose intolerance or a strict vegetarian diet
  • Is breastfed without receiving vitamin D supplements
  • Can't make or use vitamin D because of a medical disorder such as celiac disease

In addition to dietary rickets, children can get an inherited form of the disease. Symptoms include bone pain or tenderness, impaired growth, and deformities of the bones and teeth. Your child's doctor uses lab and imaging tests to make the diagnosis. Treatment is replacing the calcium, phosphorus, or vitamin D that are lacking in the diet. Rickets is rare in the United States.

Sickle Cell Disease

What is sickle cell disease (SCD)?

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. If you have SCD, there is a problem with your hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. With SCD, the hemoglobin forms into stiff rods within the red blood cells. This changes the shape of the red blood cells. The cells are supposed to be disc-shaped, but this changes them into a crescent, or sickle, shape.

The sickle-shaped cells are not flexible and cannot change shape easily. Many of them burst apart as they move through your blood vessels. The sickle cells usually only last 10 to 20 days, instead of the normal 90 to 120 days. Your body may have trouble making enough new cells to replace the ones that you lost. Because of this, you may not have enough red blood cells. This is a condition called anemia, and it can make you feel tired.

The sickle-shaped cells can also stick to vessel walls, causing a blockage that slows or stops the flow of blood. When this happens, oxygen can't reach nearby tissues. The lack of oxygen can cause attacks of sudden, severe pain, called pain crises. These attacks can occur without warning. If you get one, you might need to go to the hospital for treatment.

What causes sickle cell disease (SCD)?

The cause of SCD is a defective gene, called a sickle cell gene. People with the disease are born with two sickle cell genes, one from each parent.

If you are born with one sickle cell gene, it's called sickle cell trait. People with sickle cell trait are generally healthy, but they can pass the defective gene on to their children.

Who is at risk for sickle cell disease (SCD)?

In the United States, most of the people with SCD are African Americans:

  • About 1 in 13 African American babies is born with sickle cell trait
  • About 1 in every 365 black children is born with sickle cell disease

SCD also affects some people who come from Hispanic, southern European, Middle Eastern, or Asian Indian backgrounds.

What are the symptoms of sickle cell disease (SCD)?

People with SCD start to have signs of the disease during the first year of life, usually around 5 months of age. Early symptoms of SCD may include:

  • Painful swelling of the hands and feet
  • Fatigue or fussiness from anemia
  • A yellowish color of the skin (jaundice) or the whites of the eyes (icterus)

The effects of SCD vary from person to person and can change over time. Most of the signs and symptoms of SCD are related to complications of the disease. They may include severe pain, anemia, organ damage, and infections.

How is sickle cell disease (SCD) diagnosed?

A blood test can show if you have SCD or sickle cell trait. All states now test newborns as part of their screening programs, so treatment can begin early.

People who are thinking about having children can have the test to find out how likely it is that their children will have SCD.

Doctors can also diagnose SCD before a baby is born. That test uses a sample of amniotic fluid (the liquid in the sac surrounding the baby) or tissue taken from the placenta (the organ that brings oxygen and nutrients to the baby).

What are the treatments for sickle cell disease (SCD)?

The only cure for SCD is bone marrow or stem cell transplantation. Because these transplants are risky and can have serious side effects, they are usually only used in children with severe SCD. For the transplant to work, the bone marrow must be a close match. Usually, the best donor is a brother or sister.

There are treatments that can help relieve symptoms, lessen complications, and prolong life:

  • Antibiotics to try to prevent infections in younger children
  • Pain relievers for acute or chronic pain
  • Hydroxyurea, a medicine that has been shown to reduce or prevent several SCD complications. It increases the amount of fetal hemoglobin in the blood. This medicine is not right for everyone; talk to your health care provider about whether you should take it. This medicine is not safe during pregnancy.
  • Childhood vaccinations to prevent infections
  • Blood transfusions for severe anemia. If you have had some serious complications, such as a stroke, you may have transfusions to prevent more complications.

There are other treatments for specific complications.

To stay as healthy as possible, make sure that you get regular medical care, live a healthy lifestyle, and avoid situations that may set off a pain crisis.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Stomach Cancer

The stomach is an organ between the esophagus and the small intestine. It mixes food with stomach acid and helps digest protein. Stomach cancer mostly affects older people - two-thirds of people who have it are over age 65. Your risk of getting it is also higher if you:

  • Have had a Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Have had stomach inflammation
  • Are a man
  • Eat lots of salted, smoked, or pickled foods
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Have a family history of stomach cancer

It is hard to diagnose stomach cancer in its early stages. Indigestion and stomach discomfort can be symptoms of early cancer, but other problems can cause the same symptoms. In advanced cases, there may be blood in your stool, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, jaundice, or trouble swallowing. Doctors diagnose stomach cancer with a physical exam, blood and imaging tests, an endoscopy, and a biopsy.

Because it is often found late, it can be hard to treat stomach cancer. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination.

NIH: National Cancer Institute

Swallowing Disorders

If you have a swallowing disorder, you may have difficulty or pain when swallowing. Some people cannot swallow at all. Others may have trouble swallowing liquids, foods, or saliva. This makes it hard to eat. Often, it can be difficult to take in enough calories and fluids to nourish your body.

Anyone can have a swallowing disorder, but it is more common in older adults. It often happens because of other conditions, including:

  • Nervous system disorders, such as Parkinson's disease and cerebral palsy
  • Problems with your esophagus, including GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Stroke
  • Head or spinal cord injury
  • Cancer of the head, neck, or esophagus

Medicines can help some people, while others may need surgery. Swallowing treatment with a speech-language pathologist can help. You may find it helpful to change your diet or hold your head or neck in a certain way when you eat. In very serious cases, people may need feeding tubes.

NIH: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

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