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Prostate Cancer

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What is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer forms in tissues of the prostate (a gland in the male reproductive system found below the bladder and in front of the rectum). The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. Prostate cancer usually occurs in older men.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Prostate cancer usually grows slowly and initially remains confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Prostate cancer that is detected early — when it’s still confined to the prostate gland — has a better chance of successful treatment.

Prostate cancer is a disease where some prostate cells have lost normal  control of growth and division. They no longer function as healthy  cells.

A cancerous prostate cell has the following features:
•    Uncontrolled growth
•    Abnormal structure
•    The ability to move to other parts of the body (invasiveness).

It is important to note that not all clusters of cells growing in a mass  are cancerous, and that a prostate with an irregular shape is not  necessarily cancerous either. It is advisable to ask your doctor what it  may be.

Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer:

Common signs and symptoms of prostate cancer may include:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Burning or pain when urinating
  • Inability to urinate or difficulty starting or stopping urine flow
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in the urine or semen

Symptoms are not always present especially in the early stages of prostate cancer.  If detected and treated in its earliest stages (when cells are only in the prostate), your chances of survival are greatly increased.

Risk Factors for prostate cancer:

There is no single cause of prostate cancer. However, some factors make developing prostate cancer more likely.

Age: The chance of getting prostate cancer rises quickly after a man reaches age 50. Age is the most important risk factor for prostate cancer.

Race: Prostate cancer is more common in men of African or Caribbean descent and less common in men of Asian descent.

Family history: Genetics plays a role – the risk of prostate cancer increases if close family members have had the disease.

Diet: Men who eat a low-fiber, high-fat diet have a higher rate of prostate cancer. Research suggests that saturated fat (commonly found in processed foods, whole-milk dairy products and fatty cuts of meat) increases the production of the hormone testosterone, which may help prostate cancer cells grow. 

Lifestyle: Having a high Body Mass Index (BMI) may increase the risk of prostate cancer. Being physically active is a good preventative tactic, along with losing weight and eating the right foods. Consuming lycopene (found in tomatoes and tomato products), soy, green tea and cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli), among other foods and nutrients, may help to prevent prostate cancer.

It is possible to develop prostate cancer even when none of these risk factors is present.

The section on prostate cancer treatment can be found here.

Recommended reading:

The National Cancer Institute has a very good online booklet about prostate cancer that is easy to read and understand.  Click here to open the link and read the booklet.