Awareness: September Is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month



What is Prostate Cancer?

The prostate is a gland located in front of the rectum and underneath the urinary bladder. It is found only in men. Several types of cells are found in the prostate, but almost all of prostate cancers develop from the gland cells. Gland cells make the prostate fluid that is added to the semen. The medical term for a cancer that starts in gland cells is adenocarcinoma.

Other types of cancer can also start in the prostate gland, including sarcomas, small cell carcinomas, and transitional cell carcinomas. These other types of prostate cancer are so rare that if you have prostate cancer it is almost certain to be an adenocarcinoma.

What are the symptoms of Prostate Cancer?

Early prostate cancer often causes no symptoms. It may be found by a PSA test or DRE. PSA (prostate-specific antigen) is a substance made by the prostate gland. Although PSA is mostly found in semen, a small amount is also found in the blood. Most healthy men have levels under 4 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter) of blood. The chance of having prostate cancer goes up as the PSA level goes up. If your level is between 4 and 10, you have about a 1 in 4 chance of having prostate cancer. If it is above 10, your chance is over 50%. But some men with a PSA below 4 can also have prostate cancer.

Problems with urinating could be a sign of advanced prostate cancer, but more often this problem is caused by a less serious disease known as BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia).

Symptoms of advanced prostate cancer are:

  • Trouble having or keeping an erection (impotence)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain in the spine, hips, ribs, or other bones
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Once again, other diseases also can cause these symptoms.

If certain symptoms or the results of early tests suggest you might have prostate cancer, your doctor will do a prostate biopsy to find out whether the disease is present.

The American Cancer Society's most recent estimates for prostate cancer in the United States are for 2011:

  • About 240,890 new cases of prostate cancer
  • About 33,720 deaths from prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men, other than skin cancer. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, behind only lung cancer. One man in 6 will get prostate cancer during his lifetime. And one man in 36 will die of this disease. More than 2 million men in the United States who have had prostate cancer at some point are still alive today.

Please visit the American Cancer society web site for additional information on Prostate Cancer.

The Prostate Cancer Discovery Group in the Center for Cancer Research focuses their effort on the important problems of prostate cancer.  The goals are to generate trans-disciplinary collaborations that address important problems in prostate cancer biology and to work toward the development of novel early detection, imaging and treatment approaches.


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