The prostate, a gland located in the pelvis of males, makes and stores a component of semen. The prostate surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. A healthy prostate will be about the size of a walnut and will not interfere with the flow of urine. However, if the prostate becomes enlarged, it can cause problems during urination.
Prostate cancer forms in the tissues of the prostate and is the second most common cancer in American men after skin cancer. Typically, prostate cancer grows very slowly. Men in the early stages of prostate cancer, with cancer cells in the prostate gland only, live a long time after their diagnosis. As a matter of fact, many of these men will die of something other than prostate cancer. However, there are still approximately 29,000 men who died from prostate cancer in 2008.
Prostate cancer is usually asymptomatic in the early stages. By the time symptoms occur, the cancer may have spread beyond the prostate. Symptoms may include the following:
- Urinary problems such as not being able to urinate, having a hard time starting or stopping the flow of urine, frequent urination urges, weak flow of urine, pain or burning during urination
- Trouble having an erection
- Blood in urine or semen
- Frequent pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs
However, as men age, their prostate may grow larger and cause many of the same symptoms as prostate cancer. Although this prostate enlargement, called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, may require medication or surgery to relieve symptoms, it is not life-threatening. An infection or inflammation of the prostate can also cause many of the same symptoms.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Men who are over the age of 65 account for greater than 65 percent of the men diagnosed with prostate cancer.
- African American men have a higher risk of prostate cancer than Caucasians or Hispanics
- If men in families have been diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 60, other men in their family have increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
- The American Cancer Society recommends that both the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and the digital rectal exam (DRE) should be offered annually beginning at age 50 to men who have at least a 10-year life expectancy.
- African American men should begin testing at age 45.
- Men with a strong family history of first-degree relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age should also begin testing at age 45.
- Prostate cancer strikes one out of six American men.
- The most common risk factor for prostate cancer is age; more than 65 percent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.
- Early prostate cancer is typically asymptomatic.
- By the time symptoms occur with prostate cancer, the cancer has usually spread beyond the prostate.
- There are other conditions that cause the same symptoms as prostate cancer.
- A digital rectal exam and a blood test to detect the antigen for prostate cancer can be used to detect prostate cancer in the absence of symptoms.
- A diagnosis of prostate cancer is confirmed by a biopsy.
- There are three treatment options that are generally used for men with localized prostate cancer: radical prostatectomy, radiation therapy and active surveillance.
IN THIS SECTION
FAQs - Prostate Cancer
Know Before You Go