By Leroy Jones, Jr. on February 4, 2010 8:00 AM
Definition (via Mayo Clinic): Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in a man's prostate -- a small walnut-shaped gland that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Prostate cancer usually grows slowly and initially remains confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.
Prostate cancer that is detected early -- when it's still confined to the prostate gland -- has a better chance of successful treatment.
Symptoms Prostate cancer may not cause signs or symptoms in its early stages. Prostate cancer that is more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:
· Trouble urinating
· Decreased force in the stream of urine
· Blood in your urine
· Blood in your semen
· Swelling in your legs
· Discomfort in the pelvic area
· Bone pain
When to see a doctor Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.
Ask your doctor about the benefits and risks of regular prostate cancer screening. Medical organizations differ on their recommendations for prostate cancer screening, but many advise men in their 50s to discuss the issue with their doctors.
Causes It's not clear what causes prostate cancer.
Doctors know that prostate cancer begins when some cells in your prostate become abnormal. Mutations in the abnormal cells' DNA cause the cells to grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells.
The abnormal cells continue living, when other cells would die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor that can grow to invade nearby tissue.
Some abnormal cells can break off and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
Risk factors Factors that can increase your risk of prostate cancer include:
· Older age. The risk of prostate cancer increases with age. Prostate cancer is most common in men over 65.
· Being black. Black men have a greater risk of prostate cancer than do men of other races. It's not clear why this is.
· Family history of prostate cancer. If men in your family have had prostate cancer, your risk may be increased.
· Obesity. Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer are more likely to have advanced disease that's more difficult to treat.