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Prostate Cancer

The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system found below the bladder and in front of the rectum. No one knows the exact cause of prostate cancer; however, research has shown that men with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop prostate cancer. Some of the risk factors are age 65 and over, family history, race, certain prostate changes, and certain genetic changes.

A man who develops prostate cancer may not have any symptoms, but for men who do, the common symptoms include urinary problems, including not being able to pass urine, hard time starting or stopping the urine flow, needing to urinate often, especially at night, weak flow of urine, urine flow that starts and stops, and pain or burning during urination. Other symptoms include difficulty having an erection, blood in the urine or semen, and frequent pain in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs. Your doctor can check for prostate cancer before you have any symptoms by asking about you personal and family medical history. You’ll have a physical exam, digital rectal exam, and blood test for prostate-specific antigen to help detect any presence of prostate cancer.

If the digital rectal exam and PSA test detect a problem in the prostate your doctor may suggest other tests to make the diagnosis. These may include other lab tests, transrectal ultrasound, and transrectal biopsy. A biopsy is removal of tissues to look for cancer cells. It is the only sure way to diagnosis prostate cancer. Tissue is removed from areas of the prostate and sent to the lab for a pathologist to check the sample for cancer cells.

If cancer is found the pathologist studies tissue samples to report the grade of the tumor. The grade tells how much the tumor tissue differs from normal prostate tissue and suggests how fast the tumor is likely to grow. Tumors with higher grades tend to grow faster than those with lower grades. They are also more likely to spread. Doctors use tumor grading along with your age and other factors to suggest treatment options.

If the biopsy shows that you have cancer, your doctor needs to learn the extent or stage of the disease to help you choose the best treatment. Staging is done to find out whether the tumor has invaded nearby tissues and has spread. Some additional tests that may be done to help determine this are bone scan, CT scan, and MRI. Once testing is complete treatment options will be gone over with you. Treatment depends mainly on your age, the grade of the tumor, the number of biopsy tissue samples that contain cancer cells, the stage of the cancer, your symptoms, and your general health. Treatment options for prostate cancer are active surveillance, or watching, surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy.

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