About Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer occurs when the
cells of the prostate begin to grow uncontrollably. When caught
and treated early, prostate cancer has a cure rate of over 90%.
Yet being diagnosed with prostate
cancer can be a life-altering experience. It requires
making some very difficult decisions about treatments that
can affect not only the life of the man diagnosed, but also the
lives of his family members in significant ways for many years
More than 186,000 men in the
United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year,
and each and every one of them will need to make very personal
and individualized decisions about treatment
options and diet
and lifestyle changes. Most importantly, each and every one
of them will have to find a strong, knowledgeable team of
physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers to help guide
him through the process at each step of the way.
This section of our website is
designed to help men and their families and friends
prostate cancer grows, the risk
factors for prostate cancer, find out how
prostate cancer is diagnosed, and look at the
options for prostate cancer.
About the Prostate
Understanding what happens when prostate
cancer begins to grow also helps explain how each of the
different treatment options for prostate cancer is utilized.
The prostate is a small, squishy gland about the size of a
walnut that sits under the bladder and in front of the rectum.
The urethra, the narrow tube that runs the length of the penis
and that carries both urine and semen out of the body, runs
directly through the prostate; the rectum, or the lower end of
the bowel, sits just behind the prostate and the bladder.
Sitting just above the prostate are the
seminal vesicles, two little glands that secrete about 60% of
the substances that makes up semen; running alongside and
attached to the sides of the prostate are the nerves that
control erectile function.
and Treatment-Related Changes
Despite the best efforts of physicians, treatment strategies for
prostate cancer can disrupt normal urinary, bowel, and sexual
Under normal circumstances, the urinary
sphincters, bands of muscle tissue at the base of the bladder
and at the base of the prostate, remain tightly shut, thereby
preventing urine that is stored in the bladder from leaking out.
During urination, the sphincters are relaxed and the urine flows
from the bladder through the urethra and out of the body.
During prostatectomy, after the prostate
is removed, the bladder is pulled downward and is connected to
the urethra at the point where the prostate had sat. If the
sphincter at the base of the bladder is damaged during this
process, or if it is damaged during radiation therapy, some
measure of urinary incontinence or leakage will occur.
Solid waste that is filtered out of the
body moves slowly down the intestines, and, under normal
circumstances, the resultant stool is excreted through the anus
following conscious relaxation of the anal sphincter. Damage to
the rectum caused by radiation, or, more rarely, by surgery, can
result in a number of bowel problems, including rectal bleeding,
diarrhea, or urgency.
If the erectile nerves are damaged during
prostatectomy, which was standard during this type of surgery up
until the mid 1980s, the ability to achieve erection is lost.
Sexual desire is not affected, but severing or otherwise
damaging the nerves that stimulate the processes by which
erection occurs leads to erectile dysfunction.
Finally, because about 10% of men have
what is known as seminal vesicle invasion, meaning that the
prostate cancer has either spread into the seminal vesicles or
has spread around them, the seminal vesicles are typically
removed during prostatectomy and are targeted during radiation
therapy. The loss of the prostate and the seminal vesicles
renders men infertile.
Prostate cancer is the most common
non-skin cancer in America, affecting 1 in 6 men. The older you
are, the more likely you are to be diagnosed with prostate
cancer. Although only 1 in 10,000 under age 40 will be
diagnosed, the rate shoots up to 1 in 38 for ages 40 to 59, and
1 in 15 for ages 60 to 69. In fact, more than 65% of all
prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.
But the roles of race and family history
are important as well. African American men are 61% more likely
to develop prostate cancer compared with Caucasian men and are
nearly 2.5 times as likely to die from the disease. Men
with a single first-degree relative—father, brother or
son—with a history of prostate cancer are twice as likely to
develop the disease, while those with two or more relatives are
nearly four times as likely to be diagnosed. The risk is even
higher if the affected family members were diagnosed at a young
age, with the highest risk seen in men whose family members were
diagnosed before age 60.
Although genetics might play a role in
deciding why one man might be at higher risk than another,
social and environmental factors, particularly diet
and lifestyle, likely have an effect as well.
In fact, research in the past few years
has shown that diet modification might decrease the chances of
developing prostate cancer, reduce the likelihood of having a
prostate cancer recurrence, or help slow the progression of the
More information about how dietary and
lifestyle changes can affect the risk of prostate cancer
development and progression can be found in the Nutrition
and Prostate Cancer guide.
When weighing risk factors for prostate
cancer, it’s also important to recognize that there are non-risk
factors, or factors that have not been linked to an increase
Equally important to knowing what has been
linked to an increase in the risk of developing prostate cancer
is knowing what has not been linked to an increase in risk.
The most common misperception about the
risk of prostate cancer is that the presence of non-cancerous
conditions of the prostate increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Although these conditions can cause
symptoms similar to those of prostate cancer and should be
evaluated by a physician, there is no evidence that having BPH
(benign prostatic hyperplasia) or prostatitis
increases the risk for developing prostate cancer.
BPH is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate.
Because the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the
bladder out of the body, runs directly through the prostate,
enlargement of the prostate in BPH squeezes the urethra, making
it difficult, and often painful, for men to urinate.
The growth of the prostate in men with BPH
is unrelated to prostate cancer, and a number of research
studies have shown that the presence of BPH does not make a man
any more or less likely to develop prostate cancer.
more about BPH
Prostatitis is an infection in the prostate, and is the most
common cause of urinary tract infection in men. Most treatment
strategies are designed to relieve the symptoms of prostatitis,
which include fever, chills, burning during urination, or
Research has shown that the presence of
prostatitis does not make a man any more or less likely to
develop prostate cancer.
more about prostatitis
High levels of sexual activity or frequent ejaculation have been
rumored to increase prostate cancer risk. This is untrue. In
fact, studies show that men who reported more frequent
ejaculations had a lower risk of developing prostate cancer.