This year in the United States, almost 180,000 men will be told that they have prostate cancer. After a diagnosis of prostate cancer, a man and his family face several choices regarding treatment. Decisions involve many factors, personal as well as medical. Before making these decisions, it is very important to learn about all the options available. With this knowledge, a newly diagnosed prostate cancer patient can participate more confidently with his doctor in planning his individual treatment.
By age 50, about one-third of American men have microscopic signs of prostate cancer. By age 75, half to three-quarters of men will have some cancerous changes in their prostate glands. Most of these cancers remain latent, producing no signs of symptoms, or are so indolent, or slow-growing, that they never become a serious threat to health.
A much smaller number of men will actually be treated for prostate cancer. About 16 percent of American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lives; 8 percent will develop significant symptoms; and 3 percent will die of the disease.
Prostate cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the prostate. The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is about the size of a walnut and surrounds the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder). The prostate gland produces fluid that makes up part of the semen.
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin malignancy in men and is responsible for more deaths than any other cancer, except for lung cancer. However, microscopic cancer is found at autopsy in many if not most men. Approximately 16% of American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer sometime in their life.
Treatment options and prognosis depend on the stage of the cancer, the Gleason score, and the patient's age and general health. With greater public awareness, early detection is on the rise and mortality rates are declining. Additionally, new advances in medical technology are enabling cancer patients to go on to live active and productive lives after their treatment.