Prostate cancer is the uncontrollable growth of cells in the prostate gland.
The prostate is part of a man's reproductive system, and is located in front of the rectum and under the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, the tube through which urine flows. A healthy prostate is about the size of a walnut. The prostate makes part of the seminal fluid. During ejaculation, seminal fluid helps carry sperm out of the man's body as part of semen. Male hormones (androgens) make the prostate grow. The testicles are the main source of male hormones, including testosterone. The adrenal gland, located above the kidneys, also makes testosterone, but in small amounts. If the prostate grows too large, it squeezes the urethra. This may slow or stop the flow of urine from the bladder to the penis.
Prostate tumors are masses of prostate cells. Prostate tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors in the prostate are rarely life-threatening. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is the abnormal growth of benign prostate cells. The prostate grows larger and squeezes the urethra, preventing the normal flow of urine. BPH is a very common problem worldwide. Malignant or cancerous tumors of the prostate are generally more serious than benign tumors and may be life threatening. Malignant tumors can spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes, liver, bones, colon, and other organs.
When caught and treated early, prostate cancer has a cure rate of over 90%. It is extremely important to be diagnosed early, and healthcare professionals recommend men 50 years of age and older get screened for prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America, affecting one in six men. More than 218,000 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007.
Although only one in 10,000 men under the age of 40 will be diagnosed, the rate increases up to one in 39 for men between the ages of 40 to 59, and one in 14 for ages 60 to 69. More than 65% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.
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