Prostate cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the prostate gland. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland in men. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body. The prostate makes a fluid that is part of semen.
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Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues. Cancer that has invaded nearby tissues can then spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but it is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Prostate cancer is more common in men who are aged 55 years and older. It is also more common in African Americans than Caucasians. Other factors that may increase your chances of prostate cancer:
- Family history of prostate cancer, especially father or brother
- Family history of prostate cancer diagnosed at a young age
- A high-fat diet
Prostate cancer may cause:
- A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
- Inability to urinate
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
- Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs
These symptoms may be caused by other conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or an infection. If you have any of these symptoms, promptly see your doctor.
A significant number of prostate cancers are found by a prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) screening before symptoms develop.
Your doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done.
Tests may include:
- Digital rectal exam
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
Imaging tests evaluate the prostate and surrounding structures. These may include:
- Transrectal ultrasound with a prostate biopsy
- Pelvic MRI scan
- Abdominal and pelvic CT scan
The physical exam combined with all of your test results, will help to determine the stage of cancer you have. Staging is used to guide your treatment plan. Like other cancers, prostate cancer is staged from I-IV. Stage I is a very localized cancer, while stage IV indicates a spread to other parts of the body.
Cancer treatment varies depending on the stage of prostate cancer. You and your doctor will discuss the best treatment options for you. Treatment may include:
To help reduce your chances of prostate cancer:
- Eat a healthful diet. Your diet should be high in fruits, vegetables, and fish, and low in red meat.
- Ask your doctor about taking certain medications. For example, daily aspirin therapy and 5-alpha reductase inhibitors may reduce your risk of prostate cancer.