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Prostate cancer is an abnormal growth in the prostate gland, which is located in the area where the bladder and urethra meet. The cells within the gland are unable to divide normally. The tumor slowly grows over a period of several years. During this time, there aren't any noticeable signs of the cancer. Usually, the first time an individual becomes aware of the cancer is through a PSA blood test or through a physical examination.
There are several risk factors for prostate cancer including genetics, advancing age, hormonal influences and exposure to toxins or chemicals. The cancer is common among men over the age of 80. It is rare for men under age 40. You are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer if a family member has it.
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Stages of Prostate Cancer
There are four stages of prostate cancer.
- Stage I - The cancer is limited to the prostate and is not visible. It is not detectable through a digital rectal exam or imaging.
- Stage II - The tumor is in the prostate but has not extended beyond it.
- Stage III - The cancer has spread to nearby tissues.
- Stage IV - The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, bones and distant organs such as the lungs and liver.
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Signs of Prostate Cancer
Early signs of prostate cancer in men are normally detected through a rectal exam. A hard lump on the prostate gland can signal the presence of cancerous cells. As the tumor grows, it may press against the urethra and limit or block the flow of urine. Trouble urinating and blood in the urine are possible signs of prostate cancer.
The disruption in the flow of urine may be caused by an enlarged prostate, instead of a cancerous growth. An enlarged prostate can block the urethra and is not cancerous. To determine if the symptoms are due to an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer, more tests are done. A PSA blood test looks for proteins that are present during prostate cancer. A biopsy may also reveal the nature of the abnormal growth.
As prostate cancer progresses, the symptoms increase. Cancer cells can spread to nearby tissues, lymph nodes and other parts of the body causing symptoms like fatigue, weight loss and malaise. The pelvic bones and the lower spine usually become affected first, which will produce pelvic pain or back pain.
The cancer can then continue to spread to other organs like the lungs and liver, which can cause chest pain, coughing or abdominal pain. Jaundice is a rare condition that develops if the liver is damaged severely by cancer cells from the prostate.
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1. "Prostate Cancer." MedicineNet. http://www.medicinenet.com/prostate_cancer/article.htm
2. "Prostate Cancer Stages I-IV." WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/prostate-cancer/guide/prostate-cancer-stages