Conditions InDepth: Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the prostate. The prostate is a gland that surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the end of the penis in men. Women do not have a prostate gland.

The Male Urogenital System

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The prostate produces seminal fluid, which is needed to keep sperm healthy. The prostate releases the seminal fluid into the urethra where it combines with sperm to make semen. Normally, the cells of the prostate divide in a regulated manner. However, if cells begin dividing in an unregulated manner, a mass of tissue forms. This mass is called a tumor. A tumor can be benign or malignant.

A benign tumor is not cancerous. It will not spread to other parts of the body. In many older men, the prostate enlarges in this benign manner, called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) .

Cancer cells divide and damage tissue around them. They can enter the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body. This can be life threatening. Prostate cancer produces local symptoms by producing pressure on the bladder, urethra, and surrounding tissues. It also has a tendency to spread beyond the prostate gland to the bones.

Prostate Cancer

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Some estimates place prostate cancer as the most common cancer diagnosed in men. One man in six will get prostate cancer in his lifetime. Despite the high incidence of prostate cancer, though, fewer men die as a result of this disease.

With proper screening, prostate cancer can be detected early. And a variety of treatment options is available.

What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
What are the treatments for prostate cancer?
Are there screening tests for prostate cancer?
How can I reduce my risk of prostate cancer?
What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?
What is it like to live with prostate cancer?
Where can I get more information about prostate cancer?


American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: .

American Cancer Society website. Available at: .

National Cancer Institute website. Available at: .

Last reviewed February 2007 by Barbara Harty-Golder, MD, JD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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