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Prostate cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the prostate. The prostate is a gland that surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the end of the penis in men. Women do not have a prostate gland.

The Male Urogenital System

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The prostate produces seminal fluid, which is needed to keep sperm healthy. The prostate releases the seminal fluid into the urethra where it combines with sperm to make semen. Normally, the cells of the prostate divide in a regulated manner. But if cells begin dividing in an unregulated manner, a mass of tissue forms. This mass is called a tumor. A tumor can be benign or malignant.

A benign tumor is not cancerous. It will not spread to other parts of the body. In many older men, the prostate enlarges in this benign way, called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH).

Cancer cells, though, divide and damage tissue around them. They can enter the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body. This can be life threatening. Prostate cancer produces local symptoms by producing pressure on the bladder, urethra, and surrounding tissues. It also has a tendency to spread beyond the prostate gland to the bones.

Prostate Cancer

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Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 241,740 American men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012. An estimated 28,170 men died from this condition in 2012.

References

Prostate cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/prostate. Accessed September 20, 2012.

Screening for prostate cancer: current recommendation. US Preventative Services Task Force website. Available at: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/prostatecancerscreening.htm. Published May 2012. Accessed July 27, 2012.

4/15/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: Kohler BA, Ward E, McCarthy BJ, et al. Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2007, Featuring Tumors of the Brain and Other Nervous System. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011 Mar 31. [Epub ahead of print]

Last reviewed September 2013 by Mohei Abouzied, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.