The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. It’s a gland that produces seminal fluid to nourish and transport sperm. Located in front of the rectum and under the bladder, the prostate surrounds the urethra.
A healthy prostate is the size of a walnut. Cancer.gov says if the prostate grows too large, it squeezes the urethra. This may slow or stop the flow of urine from the bladder to the penis.
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America, affecting one in six men.
The Mayo Clinic says prostate cancer usually grows slowly and initially remains confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. Some types of prostate cancer grow slowly needing minimal to no treatment. Others are aggressive and spread quickly.
The exact cause of prostate cancer is unknown. However studies show certain factors increase the risk for prostate cancer.
Age, race and family history are the main risk factors for prostate cancer. Most American men with this cancer are over 65. It’s more common in African-American men. Men with family members, who’ve had prostate cancer, are more at risk.
The early stages of prostate cancer don’t often have signs or symptoms. However with the more advanced stages, they include trouble urinating, decreased force in the stream of urine, the need to urinate often, blood in urine, blood in semen, swelling in legs, difficulty having an erection, discomfort in the pelvic area and bone pain.
Often these symptoms are caused by other prostate problems that aren’t cancer.
The Mayo Clinic says prostate cancer that is detected early — when it's still confined to the prostate gland — has a better chance of successful treatment.
Cancer.gov says treatment depends mainly on age, the grade of the tumor, the number of biopsy tissue samples that contain cancer cells, the stage of the cancer, the patient’s symptoms, and general health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, for men who are diagnosed with a very early stage prostate cancer, doctors sometimes recommend watchful waiting (also called active surveillance). In watchful waiting, regular follow-up blood tests, rectal exams and possibly biopsies may be performed to monitor progression of the cancer.
There are other several treatment options for prostate cancer. These include surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, freezing tissue to kill cancer cells, and high-intensity ultrasound.
The National Institutes of Health recommend men get a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test to screen for prostate cancer. Men may choose to be tested between the ages of 40-75 based on the recommendation of their doctor. Thanks to PSA testing, most prostate cancers are discovered before they cause any symptoms.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
What You Need to Know About Prostate Cancer
Reviewed August 4, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N
Edited by Jody Smith