Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. It occurs in the prostate- a small walnut-shaped gland that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. Prostate cancer usually grows slowly and initially remains confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. However, once it begins to grow quickly and spreads outside the prostate, it is dangerous.
In its early stages, prostate cancer can be treated with very good chances for survival. Fortunately, approximately 85% of American men with prostate cancer are diagnosed in an early stage of the disease.
In its early stages, prostate cancer may not cause symptoms. More advanced prostate cancer my have the following symptoms:
- Trouble urinating
- Decreased force in the stream of urine
- Blood in the urine
- Blood in the semen
- General pain in the lower back, hips or thighs
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
While doctors don’t know what causes prostate cancer, the following can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer:
- Older age
- Being African-American or a Caribbean men of African ancestry
- Family history of prostate or breast cancer
- Diets rich with meat and dairy products
Call your doctor about prostate cancer if you experience
- Trouble urinating or painful urination
- Chronic pain in your lower back, pelvis, upper thighbones or other bones
- Unexplained weight loss
- Swelling in your legs
- Weakness in your legs or difficulty walking
Two initial tests commonly used to look for prostate cancer in the absence of symptoms are:
- A digital rectal exam (DRE) where the doctor feels the prostate through the rectum to find hard or lumpy areas known as nodules.
- A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test in which a blood sample is drawn to detect if high than normal levels of PSA (a substance naturally produced by your prostate) is present.
If an abnormality is detected on a DRE or PSA test, your doctor may recommend tests to determine whether you have prostate cancer including:
- A transrectal ultrasound
- Collecting a sample of prostate tissue