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The Prostate

The Prostate Gland

The prostate is one of three main male sex glands. It is walnut sized, is located just below the urinary bladder, and surrounds the beginning of the urethra. The glands of the prostate secrete a milky fluid during ejaculation that contributes to semen. The fluid secreted by the prostate contributes to the vitality of the male's semen, making the prostate important for fathering of children. The prostate, however, is not necessary for erections or the ability to achieve orgasm.

What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer, the second most common cancer in men, is a disease in which glandular cells in the prostate begin to grow and replicate in an abnormal and uncontrolled way. When this happens, the body cannot organize these cells for normal function and the cells form a mass that is called a tumor. Malignant tumors in the prostate can spread to other parts of the body, crowding and destroying normal cells.

While prostate cancer often grows very slowly over a period of years, it can also grow and spread very rapidly. As the cancer grows, it can grow into the adjacent bladder or the seminal vesicles. Prostate cancer typically will spread to two main areas of the body: the lymph nodes that drain the prostate, and the bone, mostly in the spine and ribs. Specifically, the cancer can grow inside the bone marrow, the space inside the bone where active growth of new bone occurs.

Prostate cancer is hormone-sensitive. In the prostate, the male sex hormone testosterone is converted into another hormone, DHT. These hormones can, over time, stimulate prostate cells into cancerous growth. Genetic, dietary, and environmental factors may also trigger the growth of cancer cells in the prostate.

All men are potentially at risk of developing prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime. Although prostate cancer occurs mostly in mature men, it can also occur in younger men.

Unfortunately, there are no classic warning symptoms that prostate cancer may be growing. Most often, men diagnosed with even advanced prostate cancer have no symptoms. The best way to detect prostate cancer early is by a physical examination of the prostate and the PSA blood test. Each of these tests alone is helpful. Taken together, if there is a potentially dangerous cancer, the examination and PSA are likely to indicate the presence of abnormalities. The American Cancer Society recommends that all men age 50 and over should have a physical examination of the prostate and a PSA blood test. These procedures should be started for men with a family history of prostate cancer, and men of African-American descent, at age 40.




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