About Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the prostate. The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is about the size of a walnut and surrounds the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder). The prostate gland produces fluid that is one of the components of semen.1
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin malignancy in men2 and is responsible for more deaths than any other cancer, except for lung cancer. However, microscopic evidence of (prostate?) cancer is found at autopsy in many if not most men. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimated that about 218,890 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in the United States during 2007. About 1 man in 6 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, but only 1 man in 34 will die of it. A little over 1.8 million men in the United States are survivors of prostate cancer.3
Prognosis & Treatment
Treatment options and prognosis depend on the stage of the cancer, the Gleason score4, and the patient's age and general health. With greater public awareness, early detection is on the rise and mortality rates are declining. Additionally, new advances in medical technology are enabling cancer patients to return to active and productive lives after their treatment.
- General Information about Prostate Cancer, National Cancer Institute
- What are the Key Statistics About Prostate Cancer?, National Cancer Institute
- Gleason score: A system of grading prostate cancer tissue based on how it looks under a microscope. Gleason scores range from 2 to 10 and indicate how likely it is that a tumor will spread. National Cancer Institute
About the Prostate
The prostate gland, a key part of the male reproductive system, is linked closely with the urinary system. It is a small gland that secretes much of the liquid portion of semen, the milky fluid that transports sperm through the penis during ejaculation. 1
The prostate is located just beneath the bladder, where urine is stored, and in front of the rectum. It encircles, like a donut, a section of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder out through the penis. During ejaculation, semen is secreted by the prostate through small pores of the urethra's walls. 2
The prostate is made up of three lobes encased in an outer covering, or capsule. It is flanked on either side by the seminal vesicles, a pair of pouch-like glands that contribute secretions to the semen. Next to the seminal vesicles run the two vas deferens, tubes that carry sperm from the testicles. The testicles, in addition to manufacturing sperm, produce testosterone, a male sex hormone that controls the prostate's growth and function. 3
Male hormones cause the prostate gland to develop in the fetus. The prostate continues to grow as a boy progresses to manhood. If male hormone levels are low, the prostate gland will not grow to full size. In older men, the part of the prostate around the urethra often persists in growing. This causes BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), which can result in urination problems. 4
Understanding Prostate Cancer
When you or a loved one is diagnosed with prostate cancer, the most important thing you can do is learn everything you can about available treatment options. The good news is that prostate cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. The prognosis for curing the cancer and long term survival is excellent when the cancer is caught early and treated effectively.
About one third of American men will have microscopic traces of prostate cancer by age 50. Half to three-quarters of all men will have some cancerous changes in their prostate glands by age 75. More than half of all men will have some cancer in their prostate by age 80.1
Every patientâ€™s prostate cancer should be treated based on their individual situation, including whether to actively treat the cancer and what method to use.
Active treatment usually begins a few weeks to months after diagnosis. During this time, you should meet with various doctors to learn about your treatment options. It's also a good idea to include your spouse or partner in your decision-making process. After all, a diagnosis of cancer and the treatment choices you make affect both of you.2