Alternate Names : Adenocarcinoma of the Prostate
Prostate cancer is a tumor that grows in the prostate gland in men. The prostate gland is part of the reproductive system. It stores seminal fluid, the substance that mixes with sperm to form semen.
The primary care internist is likely to be confronted with an abnormal finding on digital rectal examination of the prostate gland or an elevated prostate-specific antigen value during the routine examination of patients. The frequency of prostate cancer in the general population and the sensitivity of prostate cancer to medical therapy warrant a review of its management for the internist. An estimated 334,500 cases of prostate cancer will be discovered in 1997, and 41,800 deaths are expected in the same year. As a consequence, prostate cancer represents the second most common cause of cancer (behind skin cancer) and the third most common cause of cancer death (behind lung cancer and colorectal cancer) in males in the United States.
What is going on in the body?
Normally, the prostate is a firm, walnut-shaped gland at the base of a man's bladder. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. A man with prostate cancer has a tumor in the prostate gland. In some cases, prostate cancer can grow slowly for many years. Other times, it may grow rapidly and spread swiftly to other parts of the body. It may also spread its cells throughout the lymph system or bloodstream and along nerve pathways.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
No one knows what causes prostate cancer. Hormones, such as testosterone, control the growth of the prostate gland. They may contribute to prostate cancer. Viruses or chronic infections may contribute to prostate cancer. Researchers have recently identified a gene that is linked to some cases of prostate cancer. So far, prostate cancer has not been linked to common cancer-causing substances in the environment.
Following are some of the risk factors.
Advanced age. Prostate cancer is seen mostly in men over the age of 55.
Diet. Fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish may lower a man's risk for prostate cancer. A high fat diet may increase the risk.
Ethnic background. Prostate cancer occurs most often in African and northern European ethnic groups. It is less common in American Indian and Asian men.
Family history of cancer. A man's risk is higher if his father or brother had prostate cancer.
Men who have had a vasectomy, who smoke, or who have been exposed to a metal called cadmium may also be at an increased risk.