When a tumor grows within the prostate, a small gland in a man’s reproductive system, it can become malignant and lead to the development of prostate cancer.
The prostate is about the size of a walnut, though it can grow larger in older men, and it is responsible for helping to make semen, the fluid that contains sperm. Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer among men.
Except for a few rare instances, almost all types of prostate cancer are an adenocarcinoma, or a cancer that forms in the gland cells of the prostate. It should also be noted that prostate cancer is different from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is another common prostate problem in older men.
Causes and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
The most common risk factor for developing prostate cancer is age. But other factors, such as genetics, obesity, smoking and a poor diet, may also play a role.
The best way to detect prostate cancer is through screening tests performed by a doctor. These include a blood test called a PSA test because it tests for high levels of a protein called prostate-specific antigen, and a digital rectal exam. Also, prostate cancer treatment has the greatest likelihood of success if the disease is caught at an early stage. Therefore, it’s important that men engage in active discussion with their doctor about screening options for prostate cancer, including the risks and benefits of screening tests. Most experts recommend that the conversation about having these tests should begin at age 40 to 45 for a man at a higher risk for prostate cancer and at age 50 for the average man.
The options for treating prostate cancer, which vary based on the stage of the cancer, include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and immunotherapy. Often, prostate cancer is a very slow-growing cancer. Because of this, active surveillance is also an option. This involves doing nothing at first but frequently monitoring the cancer to look for any growth or changes.
SOURCES: American Cancer Society; U.S. National Cancer Institute.
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