Overview Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men, other than skin cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimated that there would be about 192,280 new cases of prostate cancer in the United States in 2009. About 27,360 men will die of this disease (ACS Cancer Facts & Figures, 2009). Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, behind only lung cancer. While 1 man in 6 will get prostate cancer during his lifetime, only 1 man in 33 will die of this disease. The death rate for prostate cancer is going down. And the disease is being found earlier as well (ACS Cancer Facts & Figures, 2009).
The prostate is a male sex gland mainly responsible for producing fluids of the semen, which help protect and nourish sperm cells. The prostate gland is about the size and shape of a walnut. It is located in the pelvis and lies under the bladder and in front of the rectum. There are nerves located next to the prostate that are essential for causing an erection of the penis. A normal prostate measures between 3 cm. and 4 cm. (1 1/4 in. to 1 1/2 in.) at its widest portion, is 4 cm. to 6 cm. (1 1/2 in. to 2 1/3 in.) in length and 2 cm. to 3 cm. (1 in. to 1 1/4 in.) in thickness.
The urethra, which carries urine from the bladder and contains two valves that maintain urinary control, runs through the prostate. The size of the prostate can increase when cancer is present. It may also become larger as a result of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is excess growth of benign prostate cells. As the prostate grows it can constrict urine flow because it compresses the urethra. A typical symptom of BPH and of larger prostate cancers is difficulty urinating.
Symptoms Generally, there are no symptoms of early prostate cancer, which is why tests for early detection are important. When symptoms do occur, they may include the following:
• Slow or weak flow of urine. • The need to urinate more frequently. • Inability to urinate. • A burning sensation or pain when urinating. • Difficulty having an erection or painful ejaculation. • Blood in the urine or semen. • Pain in the pelvis, lower back, hips or ribs.