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Prostate cancer is a disease in which cancer start in the prostate gland. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland in men. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body.
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Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues. Cancer that has invaded nearby tissues can then spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but it is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Prostate cancer is more common in men who are aged 55 and older. Other factors that may increase your chances of prostate cancer:
Prostate cancer may cause:
These symptoms may be caused by other conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or an infection. If you have any of these symptoms, promptly see your doctor.
Many prostate cancers are found through prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening. It can find cancer before symptoms start.
Prostate cancer may also be found after symptoms start. The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical and digital rectal exam will be done. The doctor can feel an enlarged prostate through the wall of the rectum. Blood and urine tests may be done to rule out other things that cause increased prostate size.
A sample of the prostate will be removed for a biopsy. This will confirm cancer. Images of the prostate and area can show size of growth. Tests that may be done include:
Test results will be used to find important details of the cancer such as the type and stage of cancer. Staging is used to guide your treatment plan. Prostate cancer is staged from 1 to 4. Stage 1 cancer has only affected nearby tissue. Stage 4 cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Cancer treatment varies depending on the stage of prostate cancer. Treatment may include:
Early stage cancer may not cause problems. Some cancer is also slow growing and may not need immediate treatment. The prostate will be monitored over time. You will need to track any changes in symptoms. The doctor will do tests or other follow up appointments. Watchful waiting may be appropriate for:
Types of surgery that may be needed include:
Prostate cancer surgery may cause side effects, like erectile dysfunction, problems controlling urine flow, or control of stool. Special surgery techniques may decrease the risk of these side effects in some. Some examples include nerve-sparing surgery, robotic surgery, and laparoscopic surgery.
Radiation therapy can kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Examples include:
Hormone therapy may be used if prostate cancer has spread or has returned after being treated. The goal of hormone therapy is to lower the levels of male hormones called androgens. The main androgen is testosterone. Lowering androgen levels can cause prostate cancer to shrink or slow its growth.
Hormone therapy may include:
A type of surgery called orchiectomy may be done to help control hormones. The testicles makes androgens. This surgery removes the testicles.
Other options may include:
To help reduce your chances of prostate cancer:
National Cancer Institute
Urology Care Foundation
Prostate Cancer Canada
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Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated:9/8/2020