What is Prostate cancer, and how does it affect men?

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What is Prostate cancer, and how does it affect men?

As men get older, there is usually a higher chance of falling prey to a number of diseases and conditions. These include male pattern baldness, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and prostate cancer to name a few.

While these conditions may occur early in life, it is much more likely to occur as the years pass. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with each and to understand when to get a medical check-up to try mitigate any damage or potential threat that might occur.

The prostate is a gland found only in males. It is located in front of the rectum and below the urinary bladder. The size of the prostate varies with age. In younger men, it is about the size of a walnut, but it can be much larger in older men. Several types of cells are found in the prostate, but almost all prostate cancers develop from the gland cells. Gland cells make the prostate fluid that is added to the semen. The medical term for a cancer that starts in gland cells is adenocarcinoma.

Prostate cancer is mostly a very slow progressing disease. In fact, many men die of old age, without ever knowing they had prostate cancer – it is only when an autopsy is done that doctors know it was there. Several studies have indicated that perhaps about 80% of all men in their eighties had prostate cancer when they died, but nobody knew, not even the doctor.


Experts say that prostate cancer starts with tiny alterations in the shape and size of the prostate gland cells – Prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN). It is estimated that nearly 50% of all 50-year-old men have PIN. The cells are still in place – they do not seem to have moved elsewhere – but the changes can be seen under a microscope. Cancer cells would have moved into other parts of the prostate. Doctors describe these prostate gland cell changes as low-grade or high-grade; high grade is abnormal while low-grade is more-or-less normal.


Any patient who was found to have high-grade PIN after a prostate biopsy is at a significantly greater risk of having cancer cells in his prostate. Because of this, doctors will monitor him carefully and possibly carry out another biopsy later on.


During the early stages of prostate cancer there are usually no symptoms. Most men at this stage find out they have prostate cancer after a routine checkup or blood test. While symptoms of this form of cancer are quite uncommon, if they do exist, they will exist in the form of increased frequency of urination, increased difficulty when starting to urinate, difficulty maintaining the urination after it has started, blood in the urine, and painful urination.


(All information from the websites of the American Cancer Society and the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia)


Written by Wesley Geyer

Creative writer

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