What is Prostate and Prostate Cancer?

The prostate gland is a chestnut-shaped male reproductive organ located below the urinary bladder and surrounding the upper portion of the urethra, the duct that allows passage of semen and urine. It is a conglomerate of secretory ducts that emit fluids into the urethra and ejaculatory ducts. The prostate produces a thick, white fluid which mixes with sperm from the testicles to create semen, contributing 15-30 percent of the semen secreted by a man. The gland also produces a protein known as prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which turns semen into liquid. While the prostate matures into a small, walnut-sized gland at puberty, usually between 10-14 years old, it will still grow slowly with age. However, prostate enlargement after age 50 may lead to urinary problems, often occurring as a result of inflammation or malignancy.

Prostate Cancer: What is it?

Prostate cancer is a disease that occurs when changes in prostate cells make them grow uncontrollably or abnormally. The abnormal or cancerous cells then may continue to multiply non-stop and even spread outside the prostate into nearby or distant areas of the body. Prostate cancer is rare before age 50, but is common among older men and is the second most frequent cause of all cancer-related deaths in American men. The disease is typically slow growing, often showing no symptoms until it reaches advanced stage. Hence, most men with the cancer will never know it and will just die of other causes. Nevertheless, when prostate cancer starts to grow and spread quickly, it can be very lethal and requires prompt treatment.

Causes of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer occurs mainly in older men, with more than 80 percent of cases seen in men older than 65 and less than 1 percent observed in men younger than 50. Men who eat lots of high-fat diets such as red meat have a higher risk of getting the disease. Studies have shown that the disease is more common among men who consume meat and dairy products regularly than in those who eat vegetables, rice and soybean products. Fats increase the amount of testosterone in the body and in turn speed up the growth and spread of prostate cancer. Men from families with a history of the cancer are at a higher risk, as are welders, rubber workers, battery manufacturers and men frequently exposed to metal cadmium. Failure to exercise regularly also may make the cancer more likely.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer tends to show no symptoms in the early stages, but will show some symptoms in the later stages. Common symptoms include sudden or frequent urge to urinate, trouble starting a urine stream or knowing when to urinate, pain or discomfort when urinating, blood in urine or semen, and pain in the upper thighs, lower back or hips. While these symptoms may not necessarily mean you have prostate cancer, you should see a urologist or GP when you have any of them.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When you visit a urologist, a medical history and physical examination will be performed followed by a digital rectal exam (DRE) and PSA test. If the doctor detects that you are at risk of prostate cancer, a biopsy will be requested to confirm it. There are several treatment options for prostate cancer including active surveillance (watchful waiting), surgery, radiation therapy, cryotherapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy and bone-directed treatment. Remember that early diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer improves your chances of survival. For more information on treatment of prostate diseases, visit the site, Advanced Urology Institute.