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Prostate cancer: What you need to know

Published On: Jul 09 2014 01:58:02 PM CDT
Cancer definition

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Most men know that prostate cancer is something they could be at-risk for, but how much do you really know about the disease? What are the signs and how do you know if you are at-risk?

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a gland that is part of a man's reproductive system and it surrounds the urethra.

According to the National Cancer Institute, a healthy prostate should be about the size of a walnut. If it grows too large, the prostate will squeeze the urethra and could stop the flow of urine.

Prostate Growths

Not all growths on the prostate are cancerous.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), according to cancer.gov, is a benign growth of prostate cells. It will cause the prostate to enlarge and it could prevent the flow of urine. BPH is a common problem, and, according to cancer.gov, most men over the age of 50 have symptoms of BPH.

The National Cancer Institute states that BPH and other benign growths are rarely life-threatening, can be removed and don?t spread to other parts of the body.

In contrast, malignant -- or cancerous -- tumors can be life-threatening. Malignant tumors can be removed, but they might also grow back; they can invade nearby tissue and organs; they can spread to other parts of the body.

Symptoms

How do you know if you might have prostate cancer? According to the National Cancer Institute, some of the common symptoms include:

Urinary problems:

Having trouble urinating, urinating often (especially at night), experiencing pain during urination.

Erectile dysfunction

Blood in urine or semen

Pain in upper thighs or lower back

Who's At Risk?

While researchers don't yet know what causes prostate cancer, the National Cancer Institute reports that studies have shown that men with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop the disease.

Some risk factors include:

Age: A man's risk for prostate cancer increases as he ages. In the United States, most men with prostate cancer are over the age of 65.

Family History: A man is at higher risk for prostate cancer if his father, son or brother had the disease.

Race: African-American men have a higher chance of getting prostate cancer than white or Hispanic/Latino men. It also reports that the disease is less common among Asian and Native American men.

Prostate Changes: Men with cells called high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) may have a higher risk of getting prostate cancer.

Genome Changes: Researchers have found that specific regions on certain chromosomes are linked to prostate cancer. Studies have also shown that men with changes in certain genes (such as BRCA1 and BRCA2) could be at a higher risk.