What is Prostate Cancer

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Prostate Cancer: Causes, Risks, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is marked by an uncontrolled (malignant) growth of cells in the prostate gland. The prostate is the walnut-sized gland in men, located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum, surrounding the urethra – the tube that carries urine out of the bladder. The prostate produces and stores fluid that helps to make semen.

Male Reproductive Tract Illustration UCLA
Male Reproductive Tract Illustration UCLA

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in men in the United State, aside from skin cancer, and often begins without symptoms. Prostate cancer can be slow-growing, such that many men die of other diseases before the prostate cancer causes significant problems. However, many prostate cancers are more aggressive and can spread outside the confines of the prostate gland, which can be deadly. The prostate cancer survival rate is greatly improved with early detection and personalized treatment.

What causes prostate cancer?

It is not yet known exactly what causes prostate cancer, but researchers are studying certain risk factors to determine if these factors contribute to prostate cells developing into cancer.

Who is at risk for prostate cancer?

Certain men are at higher risk than others for prostate cancer, which may affect when they should start being screened. The risk increases with age, particularly after age 50. Some risk factors include:

  • African American men are twice as likely as white men to develop the disease.
  • Having a family history – a father or a brother diagnosed with prostate cancer, particularly if it is at a relatively early age – increases the risk.
  • Having a family history of breast and ovarian cancer may also be associated with an inherited risk (BRCA gene mutation) of developing prostate cancer
  • High-fat diet and/or obesity

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

In most cases, prostate cancer causes no symptoms.

In rare cases, men may experience certain symptoms when they have advanced prostate cancer. However, these symptoms are also present in many men who do not have cancer, so it is best to discuss them with a doctor before jumping to any conclusions.  Some of these symptoms can include difficulty emptying the bladder, blood in the urine, and bone pain.

Can prostate cancer be prevented?

There are no clear prevention strategies for prostate cancer. There is some conflicting evidence that a healthy diet composed of low fat, high vegetables and fruits may help reduce your risk of prostate cancer. Routine screening, with PSA blood test and physical exam, is important to detect prostate cancer at an early stage. A healthy diet and regular exercise are also critical in maintaining good health and preventing disease in general.

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