The prostate is a gland that sits below the bladder in men and produces components of seminal fluid. The prostate is around the size of a walnut in young adult men and tends to grow larger with age.
Prostate cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the prostate gland. It is usually a slow-growing cancer and typically takes years to reach a size that causes symptoms.
Like many cancers, the exact cause of prostate cancer is unknown. Research suggests that age, family history and ethnicity can affect a man’s chance of getting prostate cancer. There is some evidence that an unhealthy diet, particularly one rich in fatty foods, may also increase prostate cancer risk.
Early stage prostate cancer does not usually have noticeable symptoms and is most likely to be caught during a regular checkup. Difficulty urinating is the most common sign of any prostate problem, whether cancer or a benign enlarged prostate. Men should see their doctor for an examination if they develop urinary problems, such as an inability to urinate, difficulty starting or stopping flow, frequent need to urinate, or painful urination. Other potential symptoms of prostate cancer include difficulty having an erection, blood in the urine or semen, and deep, frequent pain in the pelvic region.
The most common test for prostate cancer is a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. High levels of PSA in the blood may indicate prostate cancer, but can also be associated with an enlarged or infected prostate. If a patient has high a PSA, the next step is often a prostate biopsy to determine the cause. A small sample of prostate tissue will be removed and sent to a laboratory for testing.
Treatment for prostate cancer varies and depends on factors such as cancer type, how far it has spread, patient age and health, and individual preferences. Common treatments include surgery, radiation, and hormone therapy.
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