Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men except for skin cancer. This type of cancer usually occurs in older men, and it is rare to develop before the age of 40. Most people who are diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from this disease.
What is Prostate Cancer?
The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. This walnut-sized gland is responsible for making fluid that forms one part of semen. The prostate is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum, and surrounds the urethra, the tube that both urine and semen pass through and out of the body.
Diagram showing prostate cancer pressing on urethra. Image courtesy of Cancer Research UK.
Prostate cancer starts in the cells of the prostate. It is usually slow growing and most often occurs in men 65 years or older. Although prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer in men, most older men do not die from this disease.
The symptoms of cancer usually occur when a tumor becomes large enough to disrupt the normal workings of surrounding tissue. Changes in prostate cancer cells may start to occur 10 or more years before a tumor becomes large enough to cause symptoms.
While prostate cancer tends to be slow growing, it can spread to other parts of the body. The lymph nodes and bones are the most common areas where prostate cancer spreads.
Non-Cancerous Changes to the Prostate
Not all changes in the prostate are cancerous. As a man ages, the prostate naturally grows larger. If a prostate grows too large, it may press on the urethra and restrict the normal flow of urine. This is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
Prostatitis is another non-cancerous condition that may affect the prostate. This condition is an inflammation of the prostate, and is most often caused by infections.
Neither benign prostatic hyperplasia or prostatitis increase the risk of developing another prostate-related disease, such as prostate cancer.
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AnMed Health & Blue Ridge Radiation Oncology are charter members of Levine Cancer Institute's cancer care network. Carolinas HealthCare System's Levine Cancer Institute aims to build "a cancer institute without walls," by increasing access to specialist consultations, research offerings, program offerings and services to member institutions throughout the Carolinas.