The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that is around the size of a walnut. It secretes certain components of sperm. The gland is located under the bladder in front of the rectum and surrounds the urethra.
Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in a particular area of the body. Prostate cancer is the result of cancer cells in the prostate. Cancer causes the prostate to become enlarged. As the prostate grows, it compresses the urethra and reduces the space available for urine to pass through. Cancer cells can also spread and attack other parts of the body (e.g., lungs, liver, bones).
Prostate cancer tends to develop slowly. Typically, there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Genitourinary problems (e.g., difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, erectile dysfunction) may occur as the cancer progresses. Symptoms may occur in other areas of the body if the cancer has spread.
Causes and triggers
Cancer has numerous causes. The following factors may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer:
- Heredity (e.g., a family history of prostate cancer or other types of cancer)
- Ethnicity (e.g., more common in men of African origin and less common among Asian men)
- Aging (often diagnosed after the age of 50)
- The environment (e.g., presence of pesticides)
- Certain diets
- Lack of exercise
- Obesity and excess weight
- Tobacco use
Every patient's treatment is individualized. The medical team takes several things into consideration when choosing a treatment. Among other things, this includes the type of cancer, stage, possible side effects, life expectancy, and the personal preferences of the individual.
Various treatments for prostate cancer are available. These make it possible to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells, kill cancer cells, or remove the cancer altogether. Options include the following:
- Radiation therapy
- Medication (e.g., chemotherapy, hormone therapy)
- Other treatments (e.g., cryotherapy, ultrasound)
Patients who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are likely to experience symptoms at some point. These can either be due to the disease or to the treatments. To improve their comfort level, prostate cancer patients should discuss any symptoms with their health care professionals as they arise (e.g., anxiety, depression, constipation, diarrhea, pain, fever).
Prevention requires adopting a healthy lifestyle. The following healthy lifestyle habits may help:
- Improve your diet:
- Avoid eating high amounts of animal fats
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Quit smoking
- Stay sexually active
In addition, it's recommended that you talk to a health care professional about getting screened for prostate cancer.
When should I see a health care professional?
You should consult a health care professional if you experience the following:
- You have difficulty starting or stopping urination
- You notice that the strength of your urine stream or the amount of urine you pass is decreasing
- You still have the urge to urinate after emptying your bladder
- You have the urge to urinate more frequently
- You feel an urgent need to urinate
- You feel pain or a burning sensation when you urinate
- You have difficulty ejaculating or experience pain with ejaculation
- You notice blood in your urine or semen
- You have persistent back, hip, and pelvic pain
- You experience unusual fatigue along with previous genitourinary symptoms