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Prostate Cancer Basics


In 2000, Rudolph Giuliani revealed that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. See more men's health pictures.
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Reading prostate cancer information about prostate cancer symptoms is essential to understanding the nature of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is a tumor that grows in the prostate gland in men. The prostate gland is part of the reproductive system. It stores seminal fluid, the substance that mixes with sperm to form semen.

What is going on in the body?

Normally, the prostate is a firm, walnut-shaped gland at the base of a man's bladder. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. A man with prostate cancer has a tumor in the prostate gland. In some cases, prostate cancer can grow slowly for many years. Other times, it may grow rapidly and spread swiftly to other parts of the body. It may also spread its cells throughout the lymph system or bloodstream and along nerve pathways.

What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?

Some men with prostate cancer have no symptoms. Others notice symptoms such as the following:

  • blood in the urine or semen
  • dribbling when urinating
  • erectile dysfunction
  • frequent urination, especially at night
  • painful urination and/or ejaculation
  • a smaller stream of urine
  • an urgent need to urinate

If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, the man may have painful bony sites. He may also have occasional nerve paralysis or loss of bladder function.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

No one knows what causes prostate cancer. Hormones, such as testosterone, control the growth of the prostate gland. They may contribute to prostate cancer. Viruses or chronic infections may contribute to prostate cancer. Researchers have recently identified a gene that is linked to some cases of prostate cancer. So far, prostate cancer has not been linked to common cancer-causing substances in the environment.

Following are some of the risk factors.

  • Advanced age. Prostate cancer is seen mostly in men over the age of 55.
  • Diet. Fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish may lower a man's risk for prostate cancer. A high fat diet may increase the risk.
  • Ethnic background. Prostate cancer occurs most often in African and northern European ethnic groups. It is less common in American Indian and Asian men.
  • Family history of cancer. A man's risk is higher if his father or brother had prostate cancer.

Men who have had a vasectomy, who smoke, or who have been exposed to a metal called cadmium may also be at an increased risk. See the next page to learn about more about how to prevent prostate cancer.

 


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