A Visual Guide to Prostate Cancer

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A Visual Guide to Prostate Cancer
What Is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer develops in a man's prostate, the
walnut-sized gland just below the bladder that
produces some of the fluid in semen. It's the most
common cancer in men after skin cancer. Prostate
cancer often grows very slowly and may not cause
significant harm. But some types are more
aggressive and can spread quickly without
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
In the early stages, men may have no symptoms.
Later, symptoms can include:
 Frequent urination, especially at night
 Difficulty starting or stopping urination
 Weak or interrupted urinary stream
 Painful or burning sensation during
urination or ejaculation
 Blood in urine or semen
Advanced cancer can cause deep pain in the lower
back, hips, or upper thighs.
Enlarged Prostate or Prostate Cancer?
The prostate can grow larger as men age,
sometimes pressing on the bladder or urethra and
causing symptoms similar to prostate cancer. This
is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It's not
cancer and can be treated if symptoms become
bothersome. A third problem that can cause
urinary symptoms is prostatitis. This inflammation
or infection may also cause a fever and in many
cases is treated with medicine.
Risk Factors You Can't Control
Growing older is the greatest risk factor for
prostate cancer, particularly after age 50. After 70,
studies suggest that most men have some form of
prostate cancer, though there may be no outward
symptoms. Family history increases a man's risk:
having a father or brother with prostate cancer
doubles the risk. African-Americans are at high risk
and have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the
This info was printed from www.WebMD.com
A Visual Guide to Prostate Cancer
Risk Factors You Can Control
Diet seems to play a role in the development of
prostate cancer, which is much more common in
countries where meat and high-fat dairy are
mainstays. The reason for this link is unclear.
Dietary fat, particularly animal fat from red meat,
may boost male hormone levels. And this may fuel
the growth of cancerous prostate cells. A diet too
low in fruits and vegetables may also play a role.
Myths About Prostate Cancer
Here are some things that will not cause prostate
cancer: Too much sex, a vasectomy, and
masturbation. If you have an enlarged prostate
(BPH), that does not mean you are at greater risk
of developing prostate cancer. Researchers are still
studying whether alcohol use, STDs, or prostatitis
play a role in the development of prostate cancer.
Can Prostate Cancer Be Found Early?
Screening tests are available to find prostate
cancer early, but government guidelines don't call
for routine testing in men at any age. The tests
may find cancers that are so slow-growing that
medical treatments would offer no benefit. And
the treatments themselves can have serious side
effects. The American Cancer Society advises men
to talk with a doctor about screening tests,
beginning at:
 50 for average-risk men who expect to live
at least 10 more years.
 45 for men at high risk. This includes
African-Americans and those with a father,
brother, or son diagnosed before age 65.
 40 for men with more than one firstdegree relative diagnosed at an early age.
Screening: DRE and PSA
Your doctor may initially do a digital rectal exam
(DRE) to feel for bumps or hard spots on the
prostate. After a discussion with your doctor, a
blood test can be used to measure prostatespecific antigen (PSA), a protein produced by
prostate cells. An elevated level may indicate a
higher chance that you have cancer, but you can
have a high level and still be cancer-free. It is also
possible to have a normal PSA and have prostate
This info was printed from www.WebMD.com
A Visual Guide to Prostate Cancer
PSA Test Results
A normal PSA level is considered to be under 4
nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) of blood, while a
PSA above 10 suggests a high risk of cancer. But
there are many exceptions:
 Men can have prostate cancer with a PSA
less than 4.
 A prostate that is inflamed (prostatitis) or
enlarged (BPH) can boost PSA levels, yet
further testing may show no evidence of
 Some BPH drugs can lower PSA levels,
despite the presence of prostate cancer,
called a false negative.
If either your PSA or DRE are abnormal, your
doctor will order other tests.
Prostate Cancer Biopsy
If a physical exam or PSA test suggests a problem,
your doctor may recommend a biopsy. A needle is
inserted either through the rectum wall or the skin
between the rectum and scrotum. Multiple small
tissue samples are removed and examined under a
microscope. A biopsy is the best way to detect
cancer and predict whether it is slow-growing or
Biopsy and Gleason Score
A pathologist looks for cell abnormalities and
"grades" the tissue sample from 1 to 5. The sum of
2 Gleason grades is the Gleason score. These
scores help determine the chances of the cancer
spreading. They range from 2, less aggressive, to
10, a very aggressive cancer. Gleason scores helps
guide the type of treatment your doctor will
Prostate Cancer Imaging
Some men may need additional tests to see if the
cancer has spread beyond the prostate. These can
include ultrasound, a CT scan, or an MRI scan
(seen here). A radionuclide bone scan traces an
injection of low-level radioactive material to help
detect cancer that has spread to the bone.
In the MRI scan shown here, the tumor is the
green, kidney-shaped mass in the center, next to
the prostate gland (in pink).
This info was printed from www.WebMD.com
A Visual Guide to Prostate Cancer
This info was printed from www.WebMD.com

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