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Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

What is the prostate?
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that only men have. It is part of the reproductive system that makes the fluid that carries sperm.

What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is made up of cells that do not grow normally. The cells divide and create new cells that the body does not need, forming a mass of tissue called a tumor. These abnormal cells sometimes spread to other parts of the body, multiply, and cause death.

What causes prostate cancer?
As with many types of cancers, medical experts do not know what causes prostate cancer. They are studying several possible causes.

Can prostate cancer be prevented?
Medical experts do not know how to prevent prostate cancer. But they are studying many factors. They do know that not smoking, eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, and seeing your doctor regularly contribute to overall good health.

How common is prostate cancer?
For the general population, a man in his lifetime had about a:

  • 16 percent chance (1 in 6) of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
  • 3 percent chance (1 in 33) of dying from the prostate cancer.

The older you are, the greater the risk for getting and being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Risk of Being Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer by Age
Age 45: 1 in 2,500
Age 50: 1 in 476
Age 55: 1 in 120
Age 60: 1 in 43
Age 65: 1 in 21
Age 70: 1 in 13
Age 75: 1 in 9
Ever: 1 in 6

Who is at Risk?
The chance of getting prostate cancer goes up as a man gets older. About two out of every three prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65. For reasons that are still unknown, African American men are more likely the white men to develop prostate cancer and are more than twice as likely to die from it. Having one or more close relatives with prostate cancer also increases a man's risk of developing this decrease, as does eating a diet high in animal fat.

Is prostate cancer serious?
Some prostate cancers become a serious threat to health by growing quickly, spreading beyond the prostate grand to other parts of the body, and causing death. Yet other prostate cancers grow slowly and never become a serious threat to health or affect how long a man lives. Doctors can't always be sure what type of cancer is present in your particular case.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
Many men with prostate cancer often have no symptoms. If symptoms appear, they can include the following:

  • Blood in the urine
  • The need to urinate frequently, especially at night
  • Weak or interrupted urine flow
  • Pain or burning feeling while urinating
  • The inability to urinate
  • Constant pain in the lower back, pelvis, or upper thighs

If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible. Keep in mind that these symptoms are also caused by other prostate problems that are not cancer, such as an infection or an enlarged prostate.

The Best Defense: Early Detection
Prostate cancer can usually be found in is early stages by having a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal exam (DRE). Talk to your doctor about what's right for you.

What is the DRE?
The DRE or digital (finger) rectal examination is a quick exam for checking the health of the prostate. For this test, the doctor inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum. This allows the doctor to feel the back portion of the prostate for the size and any irregular or abnormally firm areas.

What is the PSA test?
PSA stands for "prostate specific antigen." PSA is a substance produced by cells from the prostate gland and released into the blood. The PSA test measures the PSA level in the blood. A small amount of blood is drawn from the arm. The doctor checks the blood to see if the PSA level normal. The doctor may also use this test to check for any change in your PSA level compared to your last PSA test.

As a rule, the higher the PSA level in the blood, the more likely a prostate problem is present. But many factors, such as age and race, can affect PSA levels. Some prostate glands produce more PSA than others. PSA levels can also be affected by:

  • Certain medical procedures
  • An enlarged prostate
  • A prostate infection

Since many factors can affect PSA levels, your doctor is the best person to interpret your PSA results.

Your doctor should offer you the (PSA) blood test and (DRE) every year starting when you are 50. Talk about the benefits and limitations of testing with your doctor so that you can make an informed decision about testing. If you are at high risk for prostate cancer (if you are African American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer at a young age) you should begin having these tests at age 45.

For more information about prostate cancer, visit:

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