What is the prostate?

Diagram of the prostate and nearby organsThe prostate is part of a man's reproductive system. It's an organ located in front of the rectum and under the bladder. The "prostate "surrounds the urethra, the tube through which urine flows.

A healthy prostate is about the size of a walnut. The prostate is a gland that makes part of the seminal fluid. During ejaculation, the seminal fluid helps carry sperm out of the man's body as part of semen. Male hormones (androgens) make the prostate grow. If the prostate grows too large, it squeezes the urethra. This may slow or stop the flow of urine from the bladder to the penis. The testicles are the main source of male hormones, including testosterone. The adrenal gland also makes testosterone, but in small amounts.

What is prostate cancer?

Cancer begins in cells, the building blocks that make up tissues. Tissues make up the organs of the body. Normal cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When normal cells grow old or get damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

Sometimes, this process goes wrong. New cells form when the body doesn't need them, and old or damaged cells don't die as they should. The buildup of extra cells often forms a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor. If the tumor is malignant, it is cancer.

Prostate cancer occurs when cells build up in or on the surface of the prostate. Scientists are researching the causes of prostate cancer. If you receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer, you may wonder "why me?".

How does prostate cancer spread?

Cancer cells can spread by breaking away from the prostate tumor. They enter blood vessels or lymph nodes, which branch into all the tissues of the body. The cancer cells can attach to other tissues and grow to form new tumors that may damage those tissues. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.

Benign Prostate Growths

Prostate growths can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a benign growth of prostate cells. It is not cancer. The prostate grows larger and squeezes the urethra. This prevents the normal flow of urine.

BPH is a very common problem. In the United States, most men over the age of 50 have symptoms of BPH. For some men, the symptoms may be severe enough to need treatment.

Early Prostate Cancer Warning Signs

Unfortunately, there are no early warning signs for prostate cancer. Most cases seem to develop in men over 65, and at that point prostate cancer surpasses lung cancer as the most common cancer in men.

Possible Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

This list of symptoms does not mean you have Prostate Cancer, but requires a prompt discussion with your physician. BPH; an infection or another health problem may cause the following symptoms: urinary problems - not being able to pass urine or frequent urination, weak flow, flow that starts and stops, pain or burning during urination; difficulty having an erection blood in urine or semen and/or frequent pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs.