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Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate. The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that surrounds the urethra just below the bladder. Most prostate cancers are slow growing. Cancerous cells may spread to other areas of the body, particularly the bones and lymph nodes. It may initially cause no symptoms. In later stages, symptoms include pain or difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, or pain in the pelvis or back. Benign prostatic hyperplasia may produce similar symptoms. Other late symptoms include fatigue, due to low levels of red blood cells. Factors that increase the risk of prostate cancer include older age, family history and race. About 99% of cases occur after age 50. A first-degree relative with the disease increases the risk two- to three-fold. Other factors include a diet high in processed meat and red meat, while the risk from a high intake of milk products is inconclusive. An association with gonorrhea has been found, although no reason for this relationship has been identified. An increased risk is associated with the BRCA mutations. Diagnosis is by biopsy. Medical imaging may be done to assess whether metastasis is present.

Prostate cancer screening, including prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, increases cancer detection but whether it improves outcomes is controversial. Informed decision making is recommended for those 55 to 69 years old. Testing, if carried out, is more appropriate for those with a longer life expectancy. Although 5α-reductase inhibitors appear to decrease low-grade cancer risk, they do not affect high-grade cancer risk, and are not recommended for prevention. Vitamin or mineral supplementation does not appear to affect risk. Many cases are managed with active surveillance or watchful waiting. Other treatments may include a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy. Tumors limited to the prostate may be curable.

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