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Prostate Cancer : Definition
Western Medicine Chinese Medicine

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting men, especially elderly men in their sixties, seventies and eighties. It has been suggested that if every man lives long enough, he will eventually develop prostate cancer. In western countries, it is the cancer most frequently found in men after skin cancer. The disease is less common among Asian men, though rates in Asian populations are rising; something thought to be due to the increased levels of red meat and animal fat in Asian diets.

The prostate is a walnut shaped gland that wraps itself around the urinary outlet tube, the urethra, just under the bladder and in front of the rectum in human males. Females do not have this organ or any equivalent organ. The prostate produces a protein-rich fluid that nourishes and supports the sperm produced by the testicles. The sperm and prostatic fluid together form the semen ejaculated by males during orgasm.

As men age, the prostate enlarges, a condition known as benign prostatic hypertrophy, and symptoms caused by pressure on the bladder and the urethra develop. These include more frequent urination, a difficulty starting urination, pain on urinating and difficulty passing urine. In some cases, when the prostate enlarges the cells undergo a cancerous change. In many men, this happens so slowly they never know they have cancer. Some cases have been diagnosed as an "incidental finding" during the post-mortems done on men who have died from other causes. But in others, the cancerous change can be rapid and the prostate cancer can spread beyond the prostate into other organs, usually the bones of the pelvis and spine, before the man has symptoms. There is new evidence that a particular tumour gene, known as P53 indicates whether the man has a tumour likely to spread rapidly or grow slowly. If P53 is present in the tumour, it is usually a much more aggressive and dangerous cancer.

The incidence of prostate cancer is low in China, but has risen significantly in recent years. This is thought to be due to lifestyle changes such as eating increased levels of red meat and animal fat. The current western thinking about prostate cancer did not exist in ancient China. Instead, prostate cancer would have been described according to its symptoms of "strangury", "retention of urine" (inability to urinate) and "haematuria" (blood in urine). In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) like western medicine, "strangury" means dribbling urination and frequent urination with prickling pain or pain radiating to the lower abdomen. This symptom can also be present in other health conditions such as certain types of venereal disease, benign prostatic hypertrophy, and some bladder diseases. "Retention of urine" occurs when the prostate enlarges, as is often the case with prostate cancer, and blocks the bladder's outflow.

The TCM perspective of how fluid is processed and urine is made is important in the development of prostate cancer:
Because there is no historical understanding of the prostate organ in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the organs that control urine production and excretion play a crucial part in the treatment of prostate cancer. The lung, spleen and kidney all have roles in fluid metabolism and in regulating its distribution. The upper, middle and lower burners act together as the distribution pathway for body fluids. All body fluids will gather finally in the kidney, where they will be separated into fluid that can be reused by the body or "turbid' water that cannot. The "turbid" water is then sent to the bladder for excretion as urine. TCM describes this fluid regulation and the excretion function as "vaporization". The bladder, as in western medicine, is responsible for storing and excreting urine. Disharmony of the bladder can lead to urinary problems such as incontinence or difficultly urinating. Kidney function complements bladder function so a problem with the bladder often indicates kidney problems as well. The kidney organ, in TCM, is additionally responsible for sexual function.

Understanding how urine is formed from a TCM perspective