Prostate cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells develop in the prostate,
one of the male sex glands. Cancer of the prostate is one of the most commonly
occurring cancers in men in the United States. Although the cause of the disease
is not known, we do know that the growth of cancer cells (like normal cells)
is stimulated by male hormones, particularly testosterone.
The prostate is about the
size of a walnut and is located just below the bladder. It functions as part
of the male reproductive system by secreting a slightly alkaline fluid that
forms part of the seminal fluid.
The gland is made of:
- three lobes that surround the upper part of the urethra
- the tube that carries urine
- semen from the other sex glands (the testicles and seminal vesicles)
The American Cancer Society estimated that 180,000 men in the United States would be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000 and that about 32,000 would die of the disease during the same year.
In general, all men are at risk for prostate cancer, but there are specific risk factors that increase the likelihood that certain men will develop the disease.
There are usually no specific signs or symptoms of early prostate cancer, so a man may live for many years without ever knowing he has the disease. As the cancer grows, it may eventually cause the prostate to squeeze the urethra, and a man may experience symptoms (such as difficulty in urinating) that are similar to other common noncancerous conditions of the prostate.
If the results of your DRE are abnormal or your PSA level is high, your doctor may suggest repeating the PSA test or may request an ultrasound, a biopsy, or other tests.
If your diagnostic tests show that you have a cancerous tumor, your doctor may want to determine the grade of the tumor.
Staging is an attempt to determine whether the cancer has spread and, if so, what areas of the body are affected. Various blood and imaging tests are used to learn the stage of the disease.
Prostate cancer can be treated in many ways. The choice of treatment depends on the patient's health, age, expected life span, and personal preferences as well as on the stage and grade of cancer and the anticipated effects of treatment.
Every successful cancer treatment being used today was first tested in a clinical trial, a three-step research process designed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new treatments for diseases.