Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers diagnosed in the United States. In fact, if you don’t take skin cancers into account, prostate cancer is the most common. As many as one in six men will receive a prostate cancer diagnosis. If you or someone you know is affected by prostate cancer, it can help to inform yourself about prostate cancer in order to have a general understanding of what is happening and what to expect. You may want to start with some basic prostate cancer facts, then find more information about medical tests, treatment options, and finding support.
An Overview of Prostate Cancer
The prostate is a walnut-sized organ in the male reproductive system that produces fluid to protect and enrich sperm. Ordinarily, prostate cells grow, divide, and die, just like cells in every other part of your body. These cells ensure the prostate functions as it should. Sometimes, these cells stop functioning normally. Instead, they grow and divide too often or just don’t die, leading to a build-up of unnecessary cells, or a tumor. That tumor is prostate cancer.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
The biggest risk factor is simply being male and having a prostate. Prostate cancer is more common in men over the age of 65. Having an immediate family member, such as a father, son, or brother, with a prostate cancer diagnosis is a risk factor, as are certain genetic or chromosomal abnormalities. Race can be a risk factor as well. African Americans have a higher risk of prostate cancer than Caucasians or Hispanics, and Asians, American Indians, and Pacific Islanders have a lower risk. Lifestyle may also play a part.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
Many men with prostate cancer experience no symptoms at all. Prostate cancer is most often discovered not because of symptoms, but during a routine examination by a health care professional. There are some symptoms involving urinary tract function and sexual function that indicate prostate trouble, and these should be discussed with your doctor as soon as they are apparent. These symptoms include difficulty urinating, urgency or frequency of urination, pain or blood when urinating, and a weak or interrupted stream of urine. Sexual symptoms include difficulty maintaining or sustaining an erection or blood in the ejaculate. Pain or stiffness in the back, pelvis, hips, or upper thighs, especially if there has been no injury, can also be a symptom of a prostate problem.
Learning about prostate cancer can help you deal with a diagnosis, whether it’s your own diagnosis or that of a friend or family member. Taking steps to become informed can help you understand information from your health care team, as well as what to expect during the course of treatment.