Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate gland grow out of control. To understand prostate cancer, it is first important to understand the prostate gland. The prostate gland is located in the male reproductive tract near the bladder and rectum. Its primary job is to create a fluid that gives sperm nourishment and keeps the semen in a liquid form. The prostate sits in the middle of the urethra and can become enlarged and grow abnormal cells. This can begin with a condition known as prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN). This usually starts in young men between the ages of 20 to 40 years old, and 50 percent of men have these abnormal cells. Another type of condition that causes abnormal cells is called proliferative inflammatory atrophy (PIA). This is a sign of inflammation to the prostate gland and may turn into cancer cells. Doctors will usually do a biopsy and keep a close eye on the cells to watch for changes. Prostate cancer affects 1 in 5 men in the United States. Prevention is key in this type of cancer and early detection and treatment can increase the lifespan of men at risk for this disease.
The symptoms of prostate cancer may not appear until the disease is advanced. 85 percent of prostate cancers are caught because of early screening tests before any symptoms develop. Early warning signs of the disease are rare. When the tumor grows, the symptoms may include:
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Reduced urine flow
- Trouble starting a urine stream
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- Burning or painful urination
- Painful ejaculation
- Trouble getting an erection
- Blood-tinged semen
- Decreased volume of ejaculation
- Pelvic discomfort and pain
- Pain in the bones, especially lower back, hip, or upper thighs
- Swelling in the lower extremities
There is another prostate condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) which causes the prostate to become enlarged and cut off the urethra preventing urine from flowing properly. Studies show this is not a cancerous condition and does not cause prostate cancer, but it is serious and needs treatment. Symptoms can also mimic those of BPH, so it is important to see your doctor if you have the above symptoms. There are a few simple tests that can help the doctor decide whether your condition is BPH or cancerous.