Prostate Cancer

The prostate gland is found only in men; therefore, only men get prostate cancer. It is just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The urethra, the tube that carries urine, runs through the prostate. The prostate normally starts out about the size of a walnut. By the time a man is age 40, the prostate may already have grown to the size of an apricot; by age 60, it may be as big as a lemon.

The prostate gland makes a fluid that is part of semen, the fluid that contains sperm. Nerves found next to the prostate take part in causing an erection of the penis, and treatments that remove or damage these nerves can cause impotence, or problems with erections.

How it spreads
Compared with most cancers, prostate cancer tends to grow slowly. It may be decades from the time the earliest cell changes can be detected under a microscope until the cancer gets big enough to cause symptoms.

When cancer grows through the prostate capsule, it invades nearby tissues. It also may spread to the lymph nodes of the pelvis, or it may spread throughout the body (metastasize) via the bloodstream or the lymphatic system.

Causes
Although we don’t yet know exactly what causes prostate cancer, there may be a genetic link. Genes are the basic units of heredity. Having certain genes can result in a higher risk of getting prostate cancer. However, heredity appears to be linked to only about 10 percent of prostate cancers.

Types of Prostate Cancer
The prostate usually is healthy in younger men. As a man grows older, however, the prostate gland frequently becomes a source of trouble. The three most common prostate problems are inflammation (prostatitis), prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia/BPH), and prostate cancer. Neither prostatitis nor prostate enlargement is known to cause cancer. However, it is possible for men who have one or both of these conditions to develop prostate cancer as well.

Prostatitis
Prostatitis, or prostate inflammation, can cause difficult or painful urination that often is accompanied by a burning sensation, a strong and frequent urge to urinate that often results in only small amounts of urine, and pain in the lower back or abdomen.

The causes of prostititis are unclear. Sometimes, it is the result of a bacterial infection. Occasionally, prostatitis is accompanied by chills and a high fever. When prostatitis is the result of a bacterial infection, it usually can be cleared up with antibiotics.