Health Tips


What is the prostate gland?

The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system. The prostate makes a fluid that  mixes with sperm and other fluids during ejaculation. A normal prostate is about the size of a walnut.

What is prostate cancer?

The body is made up of many types of cells. Normally, cells grow, divide and the die. Sometimes, cells mutate (change) and begin to grow and divide more quickly than normal cells. Rather than dying, these abnormal cells clump together to form tumors. If the tumors are cancerous (also called malignant tumors), they can invade and kill your body's healthy tissues. From these tumors, cancer cells can metastasize (spread) and form new tumors in other parts of the body. By contrast, tumors that are not cancerous (also called benign tumors) do not spread to other parts of the body. Prostate cancer is abnormal cells in the prostate gland.

Like many types of cancers, prostate cancer can be aggressive. This means it grows quickly and can spread to other parts of the body. Prostate cancer can also grow more slowly.

If you have prostate cancer, it is important for your doctor to monitor the growth of your cancer carefully. If left unchecked, the cancer can grow quickly and spread to other organs in your body. This makes treatment much more difficult.

Who is at risk for prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men, other than skin cancer.

Although men of any age can get prostate cancer, it is found most often in men over age 50. In fact, more than 8 to 10 men with prostate cancer are over the age of 65.

For unknown reasons, African-American men are at higher risk than Caucasian men. Men with a family history of prostate cancer are at higher risk, too. In this case, family history means that your father or a brother had prostate cancer.

Men who are obese and eat a diet high in fat are also at a higher risk for prostate cancer.

Should I get screened for prostate cancer?

There are advantages and disadvantages to screening for prostate cancer. You should talk to your doctor about whether or not you should be screened. Your doctor will help assess the balance of risks and benefits to screening based on factors like your age, family history and current health.

Possible Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer, especially in its early states, often does not have any symptoms. Symptoms
are more likely to appear as the cancer grows.

Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
*  Difficulty starting to urinate
*  Less force to the stream of urine
*  Dribbling after you finish urinating
*  Frequent urination, especially at night
*  Blood or pus in the urine
*  Pain while urinating
*  Hip and lower back pain that does not go away over time
*  Pain in the lower part of your pelvis
*  Unintended weight loss and/or loss of appetite

How does my doctor check my prostate?

Your doctor may examine your prostate by putting a gloved, lubricated finger a few inches into your rectum to feel your prostate gland. This is called a digital rectal exam. A normal prostate feels firm. If there are hard spots on the prostate, our doctor may suggest additional testing to check for prostate cancer.

What is the PSA test?

Another way to check for prostate cancer is with a blood test called the PSA test. PSA is short for prostate-specific antigen. Men who have prostate cancer may have a higher level of PSA in their blood. However, the PSA level can also be high because of less serious causes, such as infection or prostate enlargement.

What are the treatment options for prostate cancer?

If prostate cancer is caught early and before it has spread to other parts of the body, it can often be treated successfully.

For early states of prostate cancer, one option is "watchful waiting." Watchful waiting means seeing your doctor often so he or she can track the cancer. This can include frequent blood tests and rectal exams to check the growth of the cancer. This may be a good option for those with slow-growing cancer, or men who are elderly and/or in poor healthy. At any time during watchful waiting, you can choose to switch to another treatment.

It is important to realize that watchful waiting does not involve medication or treatment that will kill the cancer. It is just an observation period. If the cancer suddenly starts to grow more quickly or begins to cause symptoms, you may need to switch to a more aggressive treatment option.

Surgery, radiation and drug therapy are options that can treat your prostate cancer. These treatments can cause side effects, such as impotence and incontinence, but these side effects usually disappear after treatment.

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