Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. The prostate is a small, walnut-sized organ located in the male pelvis. As men age, this organ is frequently the site of slow-growing cancers that can become more aggressive. The symptoms of prostate cancer are not always discernible in the early stages.
What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer begins with changes in the size and shape of the cells of the organ. Most prostate cancers are adenocancinomas, that is, they start in the gland cells. Physicians estimate that 50 percent of men at 50 years old will have some type of neoplasia, or irregular cell growth, of the prostate gland cells. By the age of 80 years old, 80 percent of men will have prostate cancer, but many have no symptoms and do not know they have it. Prostate cancer is classified into different categories depending on the size and extent of the growth. T1 and T2 prostate cancers are limited to the prostate itself. T3 and T4 cancers have spread beyond the prostate gland into other organs.
In its early stages, prostate cancer often has no symptoms at all. It is only when the cancer cells begin to accumulate in the prostate gland that the man will begin to notice he must urinate more frequency or get up during the night to empty his bladder.
As the cells begin to grow, the man may experience difficulty in starting the urine stream or keeping the stream going once started. He may experience pain on urination or ejaculation. He may notice blood in the urine or the ejaculate.
Advanced Prostate Cancer
If the prostate cancer has spread, it may begin to affect the spinal cord or other organs, causing urinary or fecal incontinence. Pain in the legs, spine, ribs, or pelvis can occur.
Prostate Cancer Screening
It is important for men with a family history of prostate cancer or other risk factors to get regular screenings. The physician can check the condition of the prostate with a digital exam. PSA tests that measure the amount of prostate specific antigen in the body are also used to detect prostate cancer, but do not always give accurate information about the presence of cancer cells. Consult your physician about the best schedule and type of screening for you.