Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men. The number of new cases diagnosed each year has doubled over the last 10 years, largely because of improved tests that help detect prostate cancer. Although prostate cancer can occur in men of all ages, it occurs more frequently in men over 50 and is the most common in men over 65. African-American men and men with close family members who had prostate cancer are more likely to develop this cancer than other men. The cause of prostate cancer is unknown.

What is the prostate and where is it?

The prostate is a gland located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It wraps around a tube called the urethra, which carries urine and semen, the white fluid that contains sperm.

The prostate gland starts out about the size of an almond and remains that size until boys reach puberty, when it doubles in size. When a man is 45 years old, the prostate often starts growing again. In some men, it will continue to grow for the rest of their lives. This growth is made up of benign tissue and is known medically as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. BPH is not cancer nor does it lead to cancer, but it can interfere with the normal flow of urine and cause uncomfortable symptoms. BPH causes symptoms because it occurs in the center of the prostate gland where the urethra carries the urine.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer begins inside the prostate and may grow to involve the entire gland and then spread to other parts of the body. Some prostate cancers grow slowly, while other prostate cancers can be very aggressive, spreading quickly to other parts of the body, especially the lymph nodes and the bones. This is called metastasis.

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

A biopsy is the only way to know for sure if you have prostate cancer. Your doctor may have been concerned about results of your prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test or felt something that was not normal while doing a digital rectal exam (DRE) and ordered a biopsy.

A biopsy is a procedure, normally done in the doctor's office, where several small pieces of prostate tissue are removed through a thin needle and examined for cancer under a microscope. Biopsies are often done during a procedure called a transrectal ultrasound (TRUS).

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