Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop in the prostate. These abnormal cells can continue to multiply in an uncontrolled way and sometimes spread outside the prostate into nearby or distant parts of the body.
Prostate cancer is generally a slow growing disease and the majority of men with low grade prostate cancer live for many years without symptoms and without it spreading and becoming life-threatening. However, high grade disease spreads quickly and can be lethal. Appropriate management is key.
Only men have a prostate. It is a small gland that sits below the bladder near the rectum. It surrounds the urethra, the passage in the penis through which urine and semen pass.
The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system. It produces most of the fluid that makes up semen that enriches sperm. The prostate needs the male hormone testosterone to grow and develop.
The prostate is often described as being the size of a walnut and it is normal for it to grow as men age. Sometimes this can cause problems, such as difficulty urinating. These problems are common in older men and not always symptoms or signs of cancer.
In the early stages, there may be no symptoms.
In the later stages, some symptoms of prostate cancer might include:
These symptoms may not mean you have prostate cancer, but if you experience any of them, go and see your doctor.
Factors that are most strongly linked to an increased chance of developing prostate cancer:
A doctor will usually do a blood test to check the health of the prostate.
If your tests show you may be at risk of prostate cancer, the next steps are usually an MRI scan then biopsy. A biopsy is the only way a firm diagnosis of prostate cancer can be made. A urologist removes small samples of tissue from your prostate, using very thin, hollow needles guided by an ultrasound. The prostate is either accessed through the rectum (transrectal) or the perineum (transperineal), which is the area between the anus and the scrotum. A biopsy is usually done as an out-patient procedure and the doctor will likely advise a course of antibiotics afterwards to reduce the chance of infection. The tissue is sent to a pathologist to identify whether the cells are malignant (cancerous) or benign (not cancerous).
There is no evidence that the following protective factors can stop prostate cancer from developing, but they can improve your overall health and possibly reduce the risk of prostate cancer:
PCFA has affiliated support groups in every state and territory for men and their families affected by prostate cancer.
PCFA has a number of opportunities for people to assist with our work through fundraising and community education activities.
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