The prostate gland is a male sex gland. It's about the size of a walnut (although it can grow larger). It surrounds the upper part of the urethra, the tube that empties urine from the bladder. The prostate produces fluid that makes up part of semen. It needs male hormones, such as testosterone, to function properly.
Our bodies are made up of tiny building blocks called cells. Normal cells grow and multiply when the body needs them and die when they are no longer needed. This is how balance is maintained. However, some cells go through a series of changes, called mutations, in their genes. These changes may cause the cells to grow and divide too quickly, or to not die at the right time. These cells may become cancerous. Cancerous cells are called malignant cells. Cancer occurs when cells multiply constantly, whether they are needed or not. In most cancers, the abnormal cells grow and form a lump called a tumor. Prostate cancer is cancer that starts in the prostate gland.
Prostate cancer often takes many years to develop. Autopsies show that many elderly men who died of other diseases also had prostate cancer and didn’t know it. Sometimes, though, prostate cancer can grow and spread very quickly. Doctors have a hard time predicting which prostate cancers will grow slowly and which will grow quickly. The good news is that doctors can detect prostate cancer earlier than ever before. That means there’s more hope of beating it.
To recommend the best treatment for you, your health care team needs to know as much as they can about you and your cancer. The biopsy that showed you have cancer gives your doctor other facts. For instance, it can help your doctor predict how fast the cancer may grow, called the grade of the cancer. It’s likely you’ll need other tests to learn about how far the cancer has progressed. This is called the stage.
You may need to work with more than one doctor or other health care professionals. Your health care team will include a doctor who specializes in cancer. Doctors who specialize in dealing with prostate cancer include urologists, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists. You will also have an oncology nurse. This team will answer any questions you may have. They’ll also help you through each of the steps you’ll take before, during, and after treatment. Your team will let you know what tests are being done and their results. They’ll guide you in making treatment decisions.
If treatment is needed for prostate cancer, it usually begins a few weeks after a diagnosis. This gives you time to get all the details your doctor needs by having more tests. You also have time to talk with your doctor about treatment choices, get a second opinion, decide about treatment, and prepare yourself and your loved ones.