According to the National Institute of Health more than 186,000 American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. For men, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer. Only skin cancer has more reported cases each year.
The prostate is a gland that is only found in men. The prostate is below the bladder and in front of the rectum. A healthy prostate is about the size of a walnut. Your urethra, the tube which carries your urine, passes through your prostate. The prostate also produces a fluid used to make the seminal fluid that nourishes and protects sperm.
Cancer occurs when cells grow out of control and crowd out normal cells. There are several types of prostate cancer but nearly all of them start in the gland cells. Prostate cancer is a slow growing cancer and can go undetected. It is possible to have cancer cells in your prostate and never know they are there. Because of the slow growth of the cancer, symptoms usually arise when the cancer has reached a more advanced stage.
Problems urinating are common symptoms of prostate cancer. Examples of these problems are not being able to pass urine, having a hard time stopping or starting the urine flow, frequently needing to urinate, having urine flow stops and starts and pain or burning while urinating. Other symptoms of prostate cancer include impotence, blood in the urine, pain in the spine, hips, ribs and bones, weakness or numbness in legs or feet and loss of bladder or bowel control.
The American Cancer Society does not recommend prostate cancer screening for every man. Your doctor will help you decide if and when you need to begin screening. The decision to screen is based on family history and overall physical health. Screening can be either a blood test, digital rectal exam or both. If more testing is needed, a prostate biopsy may be performed. If your doctor wants you to be screened, the American Cancer Society recommends beginning yearly screening at age 50.
The symptoms of prostate cancer are also symptoms of other less serious illnesses. If you experience these symptoms contact your doctor. Discussing your symptoms with your doctor will help them decide if prostate cancer screening is right for you.