What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is a cancerous tumor in the prostate gland. The prostate is located beneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine out through the penis.
Prostate cancer is a cancerous tumor in the prostate gland. The prostate is located beneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine out through the penis. Prostate is a small walnut-sized gland in men that makes seminal fluid, which helps carry sperm out of the body. Prostate tumors can be benign or cancerous. With benign tumors, the prostate enlarges and squeezes the urethra, interrupting the normal flow of urine. This condition, benign prostate hyperplasia, is common and rarely life threatening. Prostate cancer -- one of the most common kinds of cancer in men -- can spread beyond the prostate gland and be life threatening.
Prostate cancer is the third most common cause of cancer deaths in men of all ages and is the most common cause of death from cancer in men over 75 years old. Men younger than 40 rarely have prostate cancer.
However, most cancerous tumors in the prostate tend to grow slowly and either do not spread or cause harm for decades. When caught early, prostate cancer can be treated successfully in more than 90% of cases. It affects about 1 in 12 men in the world at some point in their life. Most cases develop in men over the age of 65.
Prostate cancer is different to most other cancers because small areas of cancer within the prostate are actually very common, especially in older men. These may not grow or cause any problems for many years (if at all).
|Video: What is prostate cancer?|
What causes prostate cancer?
A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply out of control.
Although the exact cause is unclear, certain risk factors increase the chance that prostate cancer may develop. These include:
- Ageing. Most cases occur in older men.
- Family history and genetic factors. If your father or brother had prostate cancer at a relatively early age (before they were 60) then you have an increased risk. Also, if the type of breast cancer which is linked to a faulty gene runs in your female relatives, then you are at increased risk of prostate cancer. These factors point towards a faulty gene which may occur in some men.
- Ethnic group. Prostate cancer is more common in African-Caribbean men and less common in Asian men.
- Diet is possibly a risk factor. As with other cancers, a diet high in fats and low in fruit and vegetables may increase the risk.
- Exposure to the metal cadmium may be a risk.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is often slow-growing. There may be no symptoms at first, even for years. As the tumour grows, it may press on and irritate the urethra, or cause a partial blockage to the flow of urine. Symptoms may then develop and can include one or more of the following: If you notice any sexual or urinary changes, go to see your doctor (physician or GP) without delay. There's a good chance that they are caused by something else but, if it's cancer, then early detection will give you the best chance of a cure. Sexual symptoms can give the earliest indication of problems but they aren't often discussed, probably due to embarassment, and some doctors aren't even aware of them.
- Reduced quantity of semen
- Blood in your semen
- Dry ejaculation (no semen)
- Delayed ejaculation (semen isn't released with the first spasm of orgasm)
- Pain or discomfort while ejaculating
- Problems achieving or maintaining an erection
The main urinary symptoms are:
- You may need to wee more frequently, especially at night
- You may not always make it to the toilet in time
- It may take longer to start weeing or to empty your bladder
- You may have to strain to keep weeing or may not be able to wee at all
- Your urine flow may be weaker than it used to be or you may dribble
- Your bladder may not feel completely empty when you finish weeing
- Pain or discomfort while weeing
- Blood in your urine
Other symptoms include:
- Unexplained pain in your back, hips or pelvis
- Pain in your testicles or perineum (inbetween your anus and testicles)
Other symptoms such as pain at the base of the penis or passing blood occasionally occur. (These do not occur with benign prostate enlargement.)
If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, various other symptoms can develop. The most common site for the cancer to spread is to one or more bones, especially the pelvis, lower spine and hips. Affected bones can become painful and tender. Sometimes the first symptoms to develop are from secondary tumours in bones.