The prostate is a gland in a man's reproductive system. It makes and stores seminal fluid, a milky fluid that nourishes sperm. This fluid is released to form part of semen.
Prostate cancer occurs when malignant tumors form in the gland. Infected cells divide without control or order, and they do not die. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Also, cancer cells can break away from a malignant tumor and enter the bloodstream and lymphatic system.
When prostate cancer spreads (metastasizes) outside the prostate, cancer cells are often found in nearby lymph nodes. If the cancer has reached these nodes, it means that cancer cells may have spread to other parts of the body -- other lymph nodes and other organs, such as the bones, bladder, or rectum. When cancer spreads from its original location to another part of the body, the new tumor has the same kind of abnormal cells and the same name as the primary tumor. For example, if prostate cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the new tumor are prostate cancer cells. The disease is metastatic prostate cancer; it is not bone cancer.
The causes of prostate cancer, the second leading cause of death for men in the United States, are not well understood. Doctors cannot explain why one man gets prostate cancer and another does not. Researchers are studying factors that may increase the risk of this disease. Studies have found that the following risk factors are associated with prostate cancer:
- Age. In the United States, prostate cancer is found mainly in men over age 55. The average age of patients at the time of diagnosis is 70. Nearly 200,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.
- Family history of prostate cancer. A man's risk for developing prostate cancer is higher if his father or brother has had the disease.
- Race. This disease is much more common in African American men than in white men. It is less common in Asian and American Indian men.
- Diet and dietary factors. Some evidence suggests that a diet high in animal fat may increase the risk of prostate cancer and a diet high in fruits and vegetables may decrease the risk. Studies are in progress to learn whether men can reduce their risk of prostate cancer by taking certain dietary supplements.
Symptoms of prostate cancer include, but may not be limited to, the need to urinate frequently
, especially at night; difficulty starting urination or holding back urine; inability to urinate; weak or interrupted flow of urine; painful or burning urination; difficulty in having an erection; painful ejaculation; blood in urine or semen; or frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.
Unfortunately, there is a high rate of diagnosis errors surrounding prostate cancer. Physicians often fail to administer correct tests or misinterpret laboratory results. Any delay in diagnosis can be fatal.
Don't pay for your doctor's negligence
. If you are living with the consequences of a misdiagnosis, or if a loved one needlessly died because of a healthcare professional's negligence, it may be important to contact an attorney
who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits
within which you must commence suit.
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