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Patient education for prostate cancer

Prostate Diagram

Prostate cancer causes the second most deaths of any type of cancer, and is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in North American men. Approximately one in six will be diagnosed in their lifetime. Early detection is essential in effective treatment of prostate cancer. If it is not detected in an early stage, the cancer can spread to other systems before the prostate can be treated, greatly increasing the possibility of death.

What is the prostate gland?

The prostate is a walnut shaped gland located below the bladder surrounding the urethra. Its secretions are a major ingredient in seminal fluid. The prostate naturally increases in size with age, a condition known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). BPH leads to urinary symptoms such as incontinence, a poor urinary stream, and an inability to completely empty the bladder during urination. The prostate gland also is positioned very closely to the nerves and blood vessels that supply the penis for erectile function.

How do we detect prostate cancer?

  • Prostate specific antigen (PSA)
    A common method of detection is the testing of PSA, a protein released by the prostate. Normally, PSA is present in the blood at concentrations below 4 ng/mL. Higher concentrations indicate prostate enlargement, and much higher concentrations indicate prostate cancer and metastasis. It is advised for Caucasian men over age 50 and men of African descent who are over age 40 to have their PSA tested regularly.
  • Digital rectal exam (DRE)
    Prostate cancer can cause hard nodules to form on the wall of the prostate, and these can be felt through the wall of the rectum, in a test performed by your primary care physician, known as Digital Rectal Exam (DRE). An abnormal DRE is a warning sign of prostate cancer.
  • Family history
    A person's genetic makeup is also important. People whose relatives have had prostate cancer are at a higher risk than those without. Men with a family history of prostate cancer should be screened earlier than age 50.
  • Ethnic background
    A person's ethnic background can further indicate risk of prostate cancer. Men of African descent have a higher risk for prostate cancer than Caucasians. Men of Asian descent have the lowest risk for prostate cancer. Also, voiding difficulties in men does not necessarily indicate the presence of prostate cancer. In fact, it is more likely due to BPH, and the risk of having cancer is low.

A patient who might be at risk for prostate cancer will undergo a trans-rectal ultrasound (TRUS), accompanied by a needle biopsy to determine the presence or absence of cancer.

How can we treat prostate cancer?

There are several treatment options available for prostate cancer. View our diagnosis and treatment section.

Patient education materials

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