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What is Prostate Cancer?


Diagram of the affected areas of prostate cancerLet's start with, what is the prostate? The prostate gland is situated in front of the rectum and below the bladder. The prostate encircles the urethra, the tube that carries urine and semen out through the penis, and is roughly the size of a walnut. The main function of the prostate is to create a secretion that helps make up about 20% of the fluid constituting semen. The prostate is not essential for life, but is essential for reproduction. This may be something to think about as you decide on your treatment pathway.

So now that you feel more comfortable with what the prostate gland is, let's talk about, what is prostate cancer? Prostate cancer forms when the cells of the prostate start growing out of control. There are several different types of cells that make up the prostate; however, nearly all prostate cancers start in gland cells. This kind of cancer is also known as adenocarcinoma.

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in men and the second leading cause of cancer death in American men.Prostate cancer can be very slow growing, but sometimes prostate cancer can grow and spread quickly.



Classification

Cancers are diagnosed at different stages and are classified into:

Localized prostate cancer (stages T1 or T2): the tumor is confined to the prostate (intracapsular)
Prostate cancer stage T1

Stage T1
Only a few cells have turned cancerous and so cancer can only be detested via blood tests or a biopsy. The cancer is not revealed by a rectal examination.

Prostate cancer stage T2

Stage T2
The cancer is a little bigger and makes the prostate gland harder. A doctor can now detect the cancer during a rectal examination.


Localized prostate cancer (stages T3 or T4): the tumor spreads into surrounding organs
Prostate cancer stage T1

Stage T3
The prostate cancer has spread to the shell of the prostate gland.

Prostate cancer stage T2

Stage T4
The prostate cancer has spread outside the prostate and possibly to other organs.