Frequently Asked Questions About Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer Basics

Prostate Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis

Prostate cancer treatment

What is prostate cancer?

When certain cells in the prostate gland grow uncontrollably, the disease is called prostate cancer. The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system, and it produces some of the milky fluid that is in semen. Located near the bladder, the prostate gland surrounds a tube (called the urethra) that carries urine out of the bladder and through the penis. Prostate cancer can cause problems with urination and sexual function.

What are the risk factors for prostate cancers?

The most common risk factor for prostate cancer is related to age. As men get older, their risk increases. For the entire U.S. population, 13 out of every 100 men will get prostate cancer. However, one in every five African-American men will develop prostate cancer. Also, the risk for prostate cancer is increased for men who have had a close relative with the disease. Eating a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products seems to increase the risk for prostate cancer. Some research is being done to learn if certain chemicals can cause the disease.

Does prostate cancer grow quickly?

In most cases, prostate cancer grows slowly. However, some rare types of cancerous tumors in the prostate may be aggressive and reoccur after they’ve been treated. The DNA in a man’s genes can influence how the tumor will grow.

What is high-risk prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer that returns or spreads is called high-risk. There is an increased chance of having a high-risk type of prostate cancer in men with a Gleason score of 8 or more, a PSA score of 20 or more, and an advanced stage of cancer.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Some men will have the symptoms listed below. Other men won’t have any symptoms of prostate cancer.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Interrupted flow of urine
  • Dribbling urine
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Frequent pain in the lower back, hips, pelvic or rectal area

What is the first step for finding prostate cancer?

If you have any concerns or questions about your symptoms, visit your doctor who will:

  1. Take your personal medical history. This includes asking questions about any pain, fever, problems when passing urine or ejaculating.
  2. Perform a digital rectal exam (DRE). Using a finger that is gloved and lubricated, the doctor will feel the prostate gland from the rectum.
  3. Draw blood for a standard prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. The standard PSA test will check for a protein called prostate-specific antigen made by prostate cells. The protein helps to produce semen in the prostate ducts, but it may leak into the blood. High levels of PSA in the blood could be caused by cancer, and it could be caused by other health problems, having a digital rectal exam, riding a bike or motorcycle, or having had an orgasm recently. In addition, older men and African-American men often have higher than average PSA levels. When a high level of PSA is found, then another type of PSA test can be done.

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

Prostate cancer is diagnosed with a biopsy. A small piece of tissue from the prostate will be removed and examined under a microscope. If cancer cells are found, they will be ranked from 2-10 using a method called the Gleason score. A lower ranking on the Gleason score suggests that the cancer is less likely to spread and that it is not aggressive.

What is the treatment for prostate cancer?

No two cancers and no two bodies are the same. You and your doctor will discuss the best options for treating prostate cancer. In many cases, your urologist will recommend active surveillance. In other cases, the urologist may recommend a combination of treatments.

  • Active surveillance
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Cryotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy
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