Frequently Asked Questions About Prostate Cancer
What is the prostate gland?
The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. It is about the same size as a walnut and weighs about an ounce. The main job of the prostate is to make fluid or semen. During ejaculation, sperm made in the testicles moves to the urethra. At the same time, fluid from the prostate and the seminal vesicles also moves into the urethra. This mixture—semen— goes through the urethra and out the penis.
What is localized prostate cancer?
Localized prostate cancer is cancer that has not moved outside of the prostate. If the cancer has moved to other parts of the body, it is usually harder to treat. Many newly found prostate tumors are confined in the prostate. If not treated, localized tumors can grow and spread to other parts of the body, which is known as metastasized prostate cancer.
What are the symptoms of localized prostate cancer?
As men grow older, they may have urinary symptoms. These can include slowing of the urinary stream and more frequent trips to the bathroom, both day and night. This does not mean that they have prostate cancer. In the early stages of prostate cancer, only a few men may have noticeable symptoms, such as urinary problems or pain. Because there are no warning signs of localized prostate cancer (meaning that the cancer is contained in the prostate and has not metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body), screening tests that find (detect) cancer early are used by many doctors in the United States.
How do physicians test for prostate cancer?
There are two tests used to find prostate cancer. One is a physical exam known as a digital rectal examination (DRE) and the other is a blood test for a protein, called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). A DRE is a physical exam by a doctor using a lubricated, gloved finger. The finger is placed into the rectum so that the doctor can feel the surface of the prostate. If the prostate has a hard spot or feels uneven, it may be a sign of prostate cancer. PSA is a protein made by the cells inside the prostate and can be measured in a man’s blood sample. A healthy prostate does not release very much PSA, so a higher PSA level in the blood may be a warning sign of prostate cancer or another condition. Your doctor may suggest doing a biopsy if prostate cancer is suspected.
What is tumor grade?
If prostate cancer is found, the pathologist gives it a grade. The grade is a measure of how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread. The most common grading system is called the Gleason score. If you, or someone you know has prostate cancer, talk to the doctor about the Gleason score, what it means and what treatment options are available.
My father had prostate cancer. Do I need to worry?
Research has shown that genetics does play a role in prostate cancer. Men with a family history of prostate cancer are at a greater risk of developing prostate cancer. If you have a first-degree relative (father, son or brother) who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you are twice as likely to develop the disease. If you have two or more relatives with prostate cancer, you are four times more likely to be diagnosed. If you are an African American man with a family history of prostate cancer, your risk is even greater. Be sure to talk with your physician about your relatives’ prostate cancer history to get a better understanding of your prostate cancer risk.
Learn more about prostate cancer from the The American Urological Association Foundation.
Source: American Urological Association Foundation
Key Prostate Cancer Numbers
- Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the United States, behind only lung cancer.
- One is six men in the U.S. will get prostate cancer during their lifetime; 1 in 36 will die of the disease. African-American men are more than twice as likely than Caucasian men to die from the disease.
- More than 2 million men in the United States have had prostate cancer at some point and are still alive today.
Source: American Cancer Society
Learn more about Wake Forest Baptist Health's urology services.