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What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland of the male reproductive system. It is located in front of the rectum and just below the bladder, (the organ that stores urine). The prostate is quite small – it weighs only about an ounce – and is nearly the same size and shape as a walnut. The prostate wraps around a tube called the urethra, which carries urine from the bladder out through the tip of the penis.
How common is prostate cancer?
Nearly one in every five men will be diagnosed with the disease at some time in their lives. Prostate cancer is the second largest cancer killer of men, behind lung cancer. It is also the most common cancer diagnosed today, behind skin cancer. The incidence of prostate cancer increases with age. More than 75 per cent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over age 65. Some studies have shown an overall two to threefold increase in the risk of prostate cancer in men who have a history of this disease in their family. The incidence rate of prostate cancer is nearly two times higher in African–American men than in Caucasian men.
What causes prostate cancer?
The exact cause of prostate cancer is unknown. We do know that prostate cancer is a group of cancerous cells (a tumor) that begin most often in the outer part of the prostate. Early prostate cancer usually does not have any symptoms. As the tumor grows, it may spread to the inner part of the prostate and eventually put pressure on the surrounding parts of the body, such as the urethra. This may block the flow of urine from the bladder and cause other urinary problems, which usually are the first to appear. If left untreated, prostate cancer can spread from the prostate to nearby lymph nodes, bones, or other organs. This spread is called metastasis. As a result, many men experience aches and pains in the bones, pelvis, hips, ribs, and back.