Pacific Prime’s guide to prostate cancer treatment in Dubai
Known as one of the greatest silent killers for men, it is estimated that one in every six men will get prostate cancer during his lifetime. Yet, many men are unaware of the risk factors associated with prostate cancer, symptoms to look for, and treatments available. This has led the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to launch a campaign to raise awareness about prostate diseases and prostate cancer in September, in line with the ‘Prostate Health Month and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month’.
In this article by Pacific Prime Dubai, we will guide you through all the essential facts you need to know about prostate cancer treatment in Dubai.
What is prostate cancer?
The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system. Located between the bladder and penis, the gland secretes semen, a fluid that nourishes and protects sperm. Prostate cancer can develop when cells in the prostate begin to grow in an uncontrolled way.
In some cases, prostate cancer grows so slowly that it does not cause any health problems. However, in other cases, prostate cancer grows quickly and is more likely to spread to other areas in the body, leading to serious health problems if left untreated.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
Unfortunately, prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages. Symptoms usually start to develop only after it has reached more advanced stages, showing signs such as:
- Trouble urinating
- Decreased force in the stream of urine
- Blood in semen
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
Note that these symptoms are not exclusive to prostate cancer. In fact, if you experience these symptoms, there are usually a result of less serious diseases like benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or sexually transmitted diseases. Anyhow, it is always a good idea to consult a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
Am I at risk of getting prostate cancer?
Although prostate cancer is commonly found in men, some men are more at risk of developing prostate cancer than others. These are the risk factors associated with prostate cancer development:
- Family history: Genetic factors are the most important factor when assessing the risk of developing prostate cancer. If your ancestors, either close or distant, have had prostate cancer, your risk may be increased. Furthermore, genes associated with breast cancer – such as BRCA1 or BRCA 2 – or a strong family history of breast cancer may increase your risk of prostate cancer.
- Age: The risk of developing prostate cancer increases as you get older. Particularly, around two out of three prostate cancer cases are found in men over the age of 65. It is recommended that you get yearly Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) checks when above the age of 50 years.
- Race/ethnicity: For reasons yet to be discovered, studies have shown that prostate cancers are more commonly found in men of African ancestry than in men of other races or ethnicities. Meanwhile, prostate cancer occurs less often in men with Asian and Hispanic/Latino men than men with Caucasian and African ancestry.
What are the types of prostate cancer treatments available?
There are various treatment options for prostate cancer available in Dubai’s top medical institutions. It is important to discuss various options with your doctor so that you can determine which treatment would be most effective for your situation. The five most commonly used treatments are hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, radical prostatectomy, and cryotherapy.
Things that you may consider before deciding which treatment option to go for may include: the stage of your cancer, your age, side effects from each treatment, and the likelihood of success for each treatment.
If time permits, it is also advisable to get a second opinion to help you determine the best treatment option available for you. The following are the pros and cons of prostate cancer treatments available in Dubai.
Hormone therapy for prostate cancer
Hormone therapy is aimed at lowering the levels of male hormones, such as testosterone, which cause prostate cancer cells to grow. By lowering these hormone levels, prostate cancers may shrink or grow more slowly.
- Pros: It can help stop or slow the growth of cancer cells and shrink an enlarged prostate.
- Cons: It can lead to erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, blood in urine, and depression.
Hormone therapy is often used in men with recurrent prostate cancer or with advanced prostate cancer. It is also often used to shrink cancer cells before other surgeries.
Chemotherapy for prostate cancer
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs for treating cancer, aimed directly at destroying cancer cells.
- Pros: Newer chemotherapy drugs have been shown to be effective in reducing prostate cancer symptoms and slow down the growth of prostate cancer.
- Cons: There are heavy side effects from chemotherapy, with each drug leading to different side effects, such as hair loss, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and fatigue.
Chemotherapy drugs target cancer cells throughout the body as the drug enters the bloodstream. For this reason, it is often used with patients whose prostate cancer has spread outside of the prostate gland to other parts of the body.
Radiation therapy for prostate cancer
There are two main types of radiation therapy: Brachytherapy (Internal Radiation Therapy) and External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT).
Internal Radiation Therapy involves inserting small radioactive pellets directly into the prostate to target cancer cells. These implants can vary between temporary in high doses (lasting between 5 to 15 minutes), temporary in small doses (lasting a few days), to permanent implants. Meanwhile, EBRT involves targeting the prostate gland with radiation beams from a machine outside the body.
- Pros: No surgical risks, no hospital stays required, little to no damage to the tissue around the prostate, painless to almost painless procedure.
- Cons: Increased tiredness or fatigue due to radiation exposure may cause bowel problems. Patients may be forced to stay away from children and pregnant women if receiving internal radiation.
Radiation therapy is often used when prostate cancers are in the earlier stages or are slow-growing. If patients are not healthy enough for surgery treatments, then radiation therapy may also be used as an alternative, especially for men aged over 70 years.
Radical prostatectomy is an operation to remove the prostate gland and tissues surrounding it. This measure is aimed at completely curing prostate cancer in men whose cancer hasn’t spread to other areas of the body.
- Pros: This surgery has a real potential to cure prostate cancer. Furthermore, a recent approach known as robot-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy reduces the invasiveness of the operation and allows for shorter recovery and hospitalization periods.
- Cons: It may lead to erectile and urinary side effects, such as incontinence. Radical prostatectomy also leads to impotence as the operation cuts the tubes between the testicles (where sperm are made) and the urethra. Like other major operations, the surgery may also have risks associated with problems from anesthesia, heart attack, and infection.
Radical prostatectomy is often performed on patients younger than 75 years with limited prostate cancer who are still in a relatively healthy condition for a major operation.
Cryosurgery involves guiding multiple needles directly into the prostate through the skin between the anus and scrotum to destroy abnormal tissues.
- Pros: Cryosurgery can be performed several times in cases of recurrent prostate cancer and on patients who are not fit enough for radiation therapy or radical prostatectomy.
- Cons: It can lead to impotence and obstruct urine flow. In some cases, the surgery can cause injury in the rectum.
As a smaller scale surgery, it is a viable alternative to patients who are not healthy enough for larger surgeries or other treatments with severe side effects.
Are the treatment costs included in my health insurance plan?
In 2015, Dubai started phasing mandatory health insurance scheme required for all residents. However, mandatory plans may not provide any coverage for prostate cancer treatments, meaning that you’ll have to purchase “add-ons” to your plan if you want to avoid making expensive out-of-pocket payments for cancer treatments.
To find out the best health insurance plan for you, you can talk to insurance brokers, such as Pacific Prime. At Pacific Prime, we specialize in offering medical insurance in Dubai by partnering with top insurers to offer you unbiased medical insurance advice and free health insurance plan comparisons.
In his free time, Phuwit enjoys reading and playing badminton. He also loves a good cup of coffee.
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