Office of Cancer Control and Prevention

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Prostate Cancer

What is it?

Prostate cancer happens when cells in the prostate begin to grow out of control and can then invade nearby tissues or spread throughout the body. Usually, prostate cancer is very slow growing. However, sometimes it will grow quickly and spread to nearby lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small, pea-sized pieces of tissue that filter and clean lymph, a clear liquid waste product. If prostate cancer has spread to your lymph nodes when it is diagnosed, it means that there is higher chance that it has spread to other areas of the body.

What puts me at risk?

  • Age. As you get older, your risk of prostate cancer increases.
  • Race or ethnic group. For reasons that aren't well understood, black men are more likely to have prostate cancer than are men of any other group in the United States. Asian-American men, on the other hand, have the lowest rate of prostate cancer. The rate of prostate cancer in Hispanic and American Indian men is lower than in white men.
  • Family history. If a close family member - your father or brother - has prostate cancer, your risk of the disease is greater than that of the average American male.
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    U.S. Surgeon General ’s Family History Initiative
  • Diet. A high-fat diet may increase the risk of prostate cancer. Researchers theorize that fat increases production of the hormone testosterone, which in turn speeds development of prostate cancer cells. cfm?id=DS00043
  • Risk factors that predispose men to prostate cancer are older age, black race, and a family history of prostate cancer (a history of having an affected first-degree relative at least doubles the risk) (4). According to the American Cancer Society, about 70% of all men with clinically diagnosed prostate cancer are aged 65 years or older (5). Because prostate cancer usually occurs at an age when conditions such as heart disease and stroke cause death, many men die with prostate cancer rather than from it.
    Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan

Preventing Cancer

  • Although the risk factors for prostate cancer are inherent and therefore not preventable, certain tests can be preformed for early diagnosis and screening. Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan
  • Vitamin E has shown promise in reducing the risk of prostate cancer among smokers. More research is needed, however, to fully determine the extent of these benefits of vitamin E.
  • Exercise has been shown to strengthen your immune system, improve circulation and speed digestion - all of which may play a role in cancer prevention. Exercise also helps to prevent obesity, another potential risk factor for some cancers. Regular exercise may also reduce your risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or minimize your symptoms. Men who are physically active usually have less severe symptoms than men who get little exercise.
  • High-fat diets have been linked to prostate cancer. Therefore, limiting your intake of high-fat foods and emphasizing fruits, vegetables and whole fibers may help you reduce your risk. Foods rich in lycopenes, an antioxidant, also may help lower your prostate cancer risk. These foods include raw or cooked tomatoes, tomato products, grapefruit and watermelon. Garlic and cruciferous vegetables such as arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower also appear to help fight cancer.
  • Soy products contain isoflavones that seem to keep testosterone in check. Because prostate cancer feeds off testosterone, isoflavones may reduce the risk and progression of the disease.

Screening for Early Detection

Talk with your doctor about the best procedures for you.
Prostate cancer frequently doesn't produce symptoms. The first indication of a problem may come during a routine screening test. Screening tests include:

  • Digital rectal exam (DRE). During a DRE, your doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to examine your prostate, which is adjacent to the rectum. If your doctor finds any abnormalities in the texture, shape or size of your gland, you may need more tests.
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. A blood sample is drawn from a vein and analyzed for PSA, a substance that's naturally produced by the prostate gland to help liquefy semen. It's normal for a small amount of PSA to enter the bloodstream. However, if higher than normal levels are found, it may be an indication of prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement or cancer.
    • In 1986 the FDA approved the PSA test as a method to monitor prostate cancer progression. The PSA test permitted the detection of latent and preclinical cancer that can't be detected by clinical means.
  • Urine test. A sample of your urine is analyzed for abnormalities that may indicate a problem. This test doesn't detect prostate cancer, but it can help detect or rule out other conditions that may cause similar signs and symptoms.
  • Transrectal ultrasound. If other tests raise concerns, your doctor may use transrectal ultrasound to further evaluate your prostate. A small probe is inserted into your rectum. The probe uses sound waves to get a picture of your prostate gland. DSECTION=6&

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Treatment Options

Often there's more than one way to treat prostate cancer. For some men a combination of treatments - such as surgery followed by radiation or radiation paired with hormone therapy - works best. The treatment you choose may depend on several factors. These include how fast your cancer is growing, how much it has spread, your age and your health, as well as the benefits and the potential side effects of the treatment.

The most common treatments for prostate cancer include the following:

  • External beam radiation. External beam radiation treatment uses high-powered X-rays to kill cancer cells. A machine is used to deliver the radiation beam. This type of radiation is effective at destroying cancerous cells, but it can also damage adjacent healthy tissue.
  • Hormone therapy. When you have prostate cancer, male sex hormones (androgens) can stimulate the growth of cancer cells. The main type of androgen is testosterone. Hormone therapy uses drugs to try to stop your body from producing male sex hormones. It can also block hormones from getting into cancer cells. Sometimes doctors use a combination of drugs to achieve both.
  • Radical prostatectomy. Surgical removal of your prostate gland, known as a radical prostatectomy, is another option to treat cancer that's confined to your prostate gland. During a radical prostatectomy, a surgeon use special techniques to completely remove your prostate and local lymph nodes, while trying to spare your muscles and nerves that control urination and sexual function.
  • Radioactive seed implants. Radioactive seed implants are injected into the prostate and have gained popularity in recent years as a treatment for prostate cancer. The seeds, also known as radiation brachytherapy, deliver a higher dose of radiation than do external beams.
  • Watchful waiting. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test can help detect prostate cancer at a very early stage. This allows many men to choose watchful waiting as a treatment option. In watchful waiting (also known as observation, expectant therapy or deferred therapy), regular follow-up blood tests, rectal exams and biopsies may be performed to monitor for evidence of progression of your cancer.
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Coping with Cancer


Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan
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