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Health Journey Support | Understanding Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a disease where some cells in the prostate gland grow and multiply uncontrollably. This brochure will help you understand what prostate cancer is, and how it affects your body.

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Understanding Prostate Cancer

You or someone you care about has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. This video will help you understand how prostate cancer affects your body.

Anatomy and Function of the Prostate Gland

The prostate is a gland in men that makes part of the fluid in semen. It's found just under the bladder, in front of the last part of the large intestine, called the rectum.

The prostate wraps around part of the urethra, which is the tube that passes urine and semen out of the body.

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How Prostate Cancer Develops

Most prostate cancer starts in tiny sacs within the gland that make prostatic fluid. Here, cancer cells form from gland cells that line the sacs.

Over time, the cancer cells can multiply, and form a malignant, or cancerous, tumor. However, most prostate cancer grows more slowly than other types of cancer.

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Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

  • An important risk for prostate cancer is age. Prostate cancer is more common in men over the age of sixty five.
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  • Race is another risk factor. Prostate cancer is more common in African American men than in any other race.
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  • The risk is also higher in men whose relatives, such as a father or brother, have a history of prostate cancer.
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Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

There are usually no symptoms in early prostate cancer. However, as the tumor enlarges the prostate, you may have the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Weak, interrupted, or painful urination
  • Needing to urinate frequently, especially at night
  • Painful ejaculation, problems getting an erection
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or pelvis

Note that these symptoms may be caused by prostate enlargement that is not cancer.

Grading and Staging of Prostate Cancer

If you have prostate cancer, your doctor will need to determine the grade and the stage, or progression, of the disease.

Grading Each grade is based on how normal the prostate tissue looks under a microscope. The grading system for prostate cancer is called the Gleason grading system.

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In this system, samples of two main areas of the tumor will each be given a grade from one to five. The grades will be added together to give the cancer a Gleason score between two and ten.

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The higher the Gleason score, the more likely the cancer is to grow and spread to other areas.

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Each stage for prostate cancer is based on the amount of cancer you have and where it's found.

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  • Stage I: Cancer has not spread outside the prostate.
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  • Stage III: Cancer spread to or beyond the edge of prostate.
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  • Stage II: Cancer is more advanced, but is still only in the prostate.
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  • Stage IV: Cancer spread to nearby and distant tissues.
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As you deal with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, continue to talk to your doctor and your cancer care team.

The information in this handout has been created and peer reviewed by graduate-level medical illustrators, followed by reviews from medical subject experts, either physicians or PhDs on the Nucleus Medical Review Board, to ensure medical accuracy and audience level appropriateness.

The handout is intended to supplement the information you receive from your healthcare provider and should never be considered personal medical advice. Always contact your healthcare provider with health questions and concerns.