*This slide show represents a visual interpretation and is not intended to provide, nor substitute as, medical and/or clinical advice.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a walnut sized gland located below the bladder that is part of a man’s reproductive system. The prostate sits on top of the rectum. The urethra which allows urine flow runs through the prostate. The prostate makes fluid and hormones that helps nourish sperm and assist with fertility.
What is prostate cancer?
The prostate can develop cancer and other diseases that only occur in men. Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate grow out of control. Though rare, prostate cancer can spread from the prostate to other parts of the body over time.
Risk factors for prostate cancer
Risk factors for prostate cancer include getting older, having a blood relative who has prostate cancer, or belonging to a group of persons with higher cancer risk. African American men are at higher risk for getting prostate cancer and dying from the cancer.
Genetic risk factors for prostate cancer
Having changes, or mutations, in certain genes raises your prostate cancer risk. These include the BRCA gene mutations also found in some breast cancers, and mutations in a condition called Lynch syndrome.
Other possible risk factors for prostate cancer
Researchers have and continue to study whether your diet, being overweight, working with certain chemicals, having prostate inflammation or sexual infections raise your prostate cancer risk. So far, there are loose links to each playing a small role in causing prostate cancer.
Talk to your doctor about your personal prostate cancer risk
It is important to talk with your doctor about your personal prostate cancer risk if you are a man between the ages of 40 and 50. Tell your doctor if anyone in your family has had prostate cancer and ask about other risk factors.
Possible signs of prostate cancer
Prostate cancer does not usually cause signs you can see or symptoms you feel, unless it is advanced. This is why screening is so important when it comes to prostate cancer.
Advanced prostate cancer can cause pain in your bones, difficulty with urination, blood in your urine, trouble ejaculating during sex. This is because a small tube called the urethra, which carries urine and semen, runs through the prostate.
If you have any of these problems, your doctor may describe a medical term “lower urinary tract symptoms,” or LUTS from enlarged prostate. Only your doctor can tell you whether the enlargement is from cancer or benign noncancerous causes.
Other prostate problems: Prostatitis
Other prostate problems can also cause these symptoms. A condition called prostatitis occurs when the prostate tissue is inflamed. You might also have an infection requiring antibiotics.
Other prostate problems: Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
An enlarged prostate is more common in older men than prostate cancer. The large prostate lobes can press on the urethra and make it difficult to urinate.
Screening for prostate cancer
Prostate cancer screening, or checking to learn if you have cancer, is the best way to find this disease. That’s because screening can find prostate cancer early, before it has spread or caused symptoms.
Doctors recommend screening at different ages for different men. The best age depends on your risk level.
Prostate cancer screening: PSA blood test
A blood test is the main prostate cancer test. It measures the amount of a protein called PSA (or prostate specific antigen) in your blood. Only the prostate makes PSA. If the level is high, it might mean cancer. Some other conditions also result in higher PSA levels. There are other advanced PSA tests that can help your doctor see if the high number is suspicious for cancer or enlarged prostate. Discuss your PSA test with your doctor.
Prostate cancer screening: Urine test
You might also have a sample of urine tested. This test, called PCA3, can tell your doctor if you have cancer or a different prostate condition. This test checks for a gene associated with cancer.
Prostate cancer screening: Digital rectal exam (DRE)
Your doctor can also examine the prostate with a finger probing test called a “digital rectal exam” (DRE) to examine for irregularities of the prostate. A combination of the digital rectal exam and PSA blood test is the most common screening tool for prostate cancer.
Other prostate cancer tests
Other tests include a prostatebiopsy, which means taking small needle samples of tissue from the prostate to see if the cells are cancerous. You might also have an ultrasound or MRI, which shows pictures of the prostate, like an X-ray with greater detail.
How serious is prostate cancer?
The seriousness of prostate cancer depends on the type of cells found on the biopsy, your PSA blood test, whether it has spread outside the prostate, your age and general health.
How serious is prostate cancer?
All these factors determine at what stage the prostate cancer is. Stages are determined by your urologist and are from I to IV. Tests will tell the doctor what stage you may have. This will then help guide treatment recommendations by your doctor.
How prostate cancer is treated?
Treatments could include just watching the cancer, surgical removal, radiation, medications to lower hormones, or chemo and immunotherapy.
When should I get screened for prostate cancer?
Ask your doctor when and how often to be screened. The American Cancer Association recommends starting at age 50, but some men need to start in their 40s. You may not need it if you are over 75 - but talk to your doctor.
Make a screening plan with your doctor
Prostate cancer is common in men as they get older. Participating in a screening plan with your doctor can help you find prostate cancer and treat it early, and this saves lives.
Slide Show - Understanding Prostate Cancer
This slide show explains the basics of prostate cancer, including risk factors, signs and symptoms, screening tests, and an overview of treatment options. You can also learn about the role and function of the prostate, and the significance of an enlarged prostate. Prostate cancer does not usually cause signs you can see or symptoms you feel, unless it is advanced. This is why screening is so important when it comes to prostate cancer. Talk with your doctor about your personal prostate cancer risk if you are a man between the ages of 40 and 50. Tell your doctor if anyone in your family has had prostate cancer and ask about other risk factors. Participating in a screening plan with your doctor can help you find prostate cancer and treat it early, and this saves lives.
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This educational activity has been developed by
Men's Health Network and Mechanisms in Medicine Inc.
This activity is supported by independent educational grants from Ferring, Pfizer, and Sanofi Genzyme.
This website is part of the Animated Patient™ series developed by Mechanisms in Medicine Inc., to provide highly visual formats of learning for patients to improve their understanding, make informed decisions, and partner with their healthcare professionals for optimal outcomes.