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HomeHealth A-Z Prostate Cancer
Prostate Cancer
Prostate Cancer
Most men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the early stages have not yet experienced any symptoms.

Prostate Cancer

(PRAH-stayt KAN-sur)

Definition of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is cancer that begins in a man's prostate gland and may spread to other parts of the body. The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that is involved in the production and storage of semen. Cancer is a disease caused by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body.

Description of Prostate Cancer

It is estimated that about 1 in 6 men in the United States will get prostate cancer sometime during their lifetime, making it the second most common form of cancer diagnosed in men after skin cancer. Because the type of cancer is determined by the part of the body where the cancer originates, prostate cancer is a form of cancer that affects only men since it begins in a gland of the male reproductive system.

Prostate cancer is generally a slow growing form of cancer and it may take years for it to cause any problems. While prostate cancer does not cause much harm when it stays within the limits of the prostate, if it is a fast growing strain or is left untreated, there is the chance that the cancer cells will grow into the surrounding tissues or enter the lymph nodes where it can then travel thru out the body and cause significant harm.

Causes and Risk Factors of Prostate Cancer

The exact causes of prostate cancer are not known, but there are some factors which are thought to increase a man's chance of developing prostate cancer. Factors that seem to contribute or influence the incidence of prostate cancer include:

  • Age - Incidence increases substantially over the age of 50. 70% of diagnosed cases and 90% of men who die from prostate cancer are over 65 years of age.
  • Family History - Chances of developing prostate cancer are higher if a family member such as a father or brother were diagnosed with prostate cancer, especially if the family member was younger than 55 years of age at diagnosis.
  • Race of Ethnicity - Researchers have not been able to determine why there is a difference between races, though theories focus on genetics, health care, or diet. Statistics show that African-American men have a higher incidence of getting prostate cancer and are also more likely to get a type that grows and spreads. Asian-American men have a lower incidence of prostate cancer than White-American men, but Asian men living in the US have a higher rate of prostate cancer than Asian men living in Japan or China.
  • Diet - Men who are obese or consume a high-fat diet are more likely to develop prostate cancer and not survive than those who eat a low-fat diet.
  • High Testosterone Levels - Men with high testosterone levels are more likely to develop prostate cancer than men with lower levels of the hormone.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer in the early stages does not usually exhibit any symptoms. Symptoms may develop if the cancer grows or spreads, but they may also indicate other conditions such as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), Prostatitis, or Urinary Tract Infection. Symptoms include:

  • frequent need to urinate, especially at night
  • difficulty in starting or holding back urine
  • weakened flow of urine
  • painful or burning urination
  • blood in the urine or semen
  • difficulty in achieving erection
  • painful ejaculation
  • deep pain in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs

If prostate cancer has metastasized (spread to other parts of the body), there may also be symptoms of weight loss, swelling in the feet and legs, and bone pain in the lower abdomen, hip, pelvis, or lower back not associated with a known injury.

Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer

Most men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the early stages have not yet experienced any symptoms but have become aware of the cancer thru routine screening and physical exams.

However, if you are a man and experience any of the symptoms of prostate cancer, you should visit your doctor for a thorough examination and proper diagnosis. Tests performed to screen for prostate cancer include a digital rectal exam (doctor uses a gloved finger in the rectum to determine the size of the prostate gland), a urine test, and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. If any of these tests indicate the possibility of prostate cancer, a prostate biopsy may be prescribed, a procedure in which tissue is taken from the prostate and examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer.

Treatment of Prostate Cancer

Treatment for prostate cancer will vary based on many factors including the grade of cancer (slow-growing or fast-growing), stage of cancer (remains in the prostate or has spread), age, life expectancy, other health conditions, and side effects of treatment. Treatment for prostate cancer includes:

  • Prostate Surgery - a viable option if the surgery has not spread beyond the prostate
  • Radiation Therapy - most effective if the cancer has not spread from the prostate, may be used in conjunction with surgery or alone
  • Hormone Therapy - aimed at slowing the growth of cancer cells by stopping the production of male sex hormones which can stimulate the growth of cancer cells, may be used alone or with either surgery or radiation therapy
  • Watchful Waiting - also called observation or deferred therapy, medical treatments are not provided but the cancer is kept under observation thru exams and tests, watchful waiting may be chosen if the cancer is caught in the earliest stages, confined to a small area, and in men who are older or in poor health

Prevention of Prostate Cancer

Although many of the risk factors associated with prostate cancer are not controllable, it is thought that the chance of developing the disease can be lessened by eating a healthy, low-fat, high-fiber diet and maintaining a healthy weight.

Diet recommendations for preventing prostate cancer include soy products such as tofu and soy beans, foods that contain lycopenes (an antioxidant) such as tomatoes and tomato products, whole fiber foods, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.

External Resources

Prostate Cancer Foundation

National Cancer Institute

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