Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate — a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Usually prostate cancer grows slowly and is initially confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.
Prostate cancer that’s detected early — when it’s still confined to the prostate gland — has a better chance of successful treatment.
Fast facts on prostate cancer
Here are some key points about the prostate cancer. More detail is in the main article.
- The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system.
- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.
- It is treatable if diagnosed early, before it spreads.
- If symptoms appear, they include problems with urination.
- Regular screening Is the best way to detect it in good time.
The prostate is a walnut-sized exocrine gland. This means that its fluids and secretions are intended for use outside of the body.The prostate produces the fluid that nourishes and transports sperm on their journey to fuse with a female ovum, or egg, and produce human life.
The prostate contracts and forces these fluids out during orgasm.The protein excreted by the prostate, prostate-specific antigen (PSA), helps semen retain its liquid state. An excess of this protein in the blood is one of the first signs of prostate cancer.
The urethra is tube through which sperm and urine exit the body. It also passes through the prostate.As such, the prostate is also responsible for urine control. It can tighten and restrict the flow of urine through the urethra using thousands of tiny muscle fibers.
Prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages.
Prostate cancer that’s more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:
- Trouble urinating
- Decreased force in the stream of urine
- Blood in semen
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?
Certain risk factors may predispose a person to prostate cancer. These include the following:
Age: Sixty percent of cases of prostate cancer arise in men over 65 years of age. The disease is rare in men under 40.
Race or ethnicity: African-American men and Jamaican men of African ancestry are diagnosed with prostate cancer more often than are men of other races and ethnicities. Asian and Hispanic men are less likely to develop prostate cancer than are non-Hispanic white males.
Family history: Prostate cancer can run in families. A man whose father or brother (first-degree relative) has or had prostate cancer is twice as likely to develop the disease. The younger the family member is when he is diagnosed with prostate cancer, the higher the risk is for male relatives to develop prostate cancer. The risk of developing prostate cancer also increases with the number of relatives affected.
Nationality: Prostate cancer is more common in North America, Europe (especially northwestern countries in Europe), the Caribbean, and Australia. It is less common in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America. Multiple factors, such as diet and lifestyle, may account for this.
Genetic factors: Mutations in a portion of the DNA called the BRCA2 gene can increase a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer, as well as other cancers. This same mutation in female family members may increase their risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. However, very few cases of prostate cancer can be directly attributed to presently identifiable genetic changes. Other inherited genes associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer include RNASEL, BRCA 1, DNA mismatch genes, HPC1, and HoxB13.
Other factors: High-fat diets (fatty foods) and diets high in red meats and fatty foods and low in fruits and vegetables appear to be associated with a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Obesity is also linked to a higher risk of the disease. Increased calcium intake and dairy foods may increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Smoking, a history of sexually transmitted diseases, a history of prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), and a history of vasectomy have not been proven to play a role in causing prostate cancer. The role of fish oil in risk of prostate cancer remains under investigation.
Treatment is different for early and advanced prostate cancers.
Early stage prostate cancer
If the cancer is small and localized, it is usually managed by one of the following treatments:
Watchful waiting or monitoring: PSA blood levels are regularly checked, but there is no immediate action. The risk of side-effects sometimes outweighs the need for immediate treatment for this slow-developing cancer.
Radical prostatectomy: The prostate is surgically removed. Traditional surgery requires a hospital stay of up to 10 days, with a recovery time of up to 3 months. Robotic keyhole surgery involves a shorter hospitalization and recovery period, but it can be more expensive. Patients should speak to their insurer about coverage.
Brachytherapy: Radioactive seeds are implanted into the prostate to deliver targeted radiation treatment.
Conformal radiation therapy: Radiation beams are shaped so that the region where they overlap is as close to the same shape as the organ or region that requires treatment. This minimizes healthy tissue exposure to radiation.
Intensity modulated radiation therapy: Beams with variable intensity are used. This is an advanced form of conformal radiation therapy.
In the early stages, patients may receive radiation therapy combined with hormone therapy for 4 to 6 months.
Treatment recommendations depend on individual cases. The patient should discuss all available options with their urologist or oncologist.
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