Section Title

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men (after skin cancer), but it can often be treated successfully. More than 2 million men in the U.S. count themselves as prostate cancer survivors.

The prostate is a gland found only in males. It is located in front of the rectum and below the urinary bladder. The size of the prostate varies with age. In younger men, it is about the size of a walnut, but it can be much larger in older men.

The prostate's job is to make some of the fluid that protects and nourishes sperm cells in semen, making the semen more liquid. Just behind the prostate are glands called seminal vesicles that make most of the fluid for semen. The urethra, which is the tube that carries urine and semen out of the body through the penis, goes through the center of the prostate.

Types of Prostate Cancer
Several types of cells are found in the prostate, but almost all prostate cancers develop from the gland cells. Gland cells make the prostate fluid that is added to the semen. The medical term for a cancer that starts in gland cells is adenocarcinoma.

Other types of cancer can also start in the prostate gland, including sarcomas, small cell carcinomas, and transitional cell carcinomas. But these types of prostate cancer are so rare that if you have prostate cancer it is almost certain to be an adenocarcinoma.

Risk Factors
The causes of prostate cancer are still not completely understood, but researchers have found several factors that might change the risk of getting it.

Screening for Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer can often be found early by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in a man's blood. Another way to find prostate cancer is the digital rectal exam (DRE), in which the doctor puts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland.

If the results of either one of these tests are abnormal, further testing is needed to see if there is a cancer. If prostate cancer is found as a result of screening with the PSA test or DRE, it will probably be at an earlier, more treatable stage than if no screening were done.

The American Cancer Society recommends that men have a chance to make an informed decision with their health care provider about whether to be screened for prostate cancer. This discussion about screening should take place:

Assuming no prostate cancer is found as a result of screening, the time between future screenings depends on the results of the PSA blood test.

Resources

 

Sources: American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)