Prostate Cancer

What is Prostate Cancer?

How Tumors Form

The body is made up of many types of cells. Normally, cells grow, divide, and produce more cells as needed to keep the body healthy and functioning properly. Sometimes, however, the process goes wrong -- cells become abnormal and form more cells in an uncontrolled way. These extra cells form a mass of tissue, called a growth or tumor. Tumors can be benign, which means not cancerous, or malignant, which means cancerous.

How Prostate Cancer Occurs

Prostate cancer occurs when a tumor forms in the tissue of the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system. In its early stage, prostate cancer needs the male hormone testosterone to grow and survive.

The prostate is about the size of a large walnut. It is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The prostate's main function is to make fluid for semen, a white substance that carries sperm.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among American men. It is a slow-growing disease that mostly affects older men. In fact, more than 60 percent of all prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65. The disease rarely occurs in men younger than 40 years of age.

Prostate Cancer Can Spread

Sometimes, cancer cells break away from a malignant tumor in the prostate and enter the bloodstream or the lymphatic system and travel to other organs in the body.

When cancer spreads from its original location in the prostate to another part of the body such as the bone, it is called metastatic prostate cancer -- not bone cancer. Doctors sometimes call this distant disease.

Surviving Prostate Cancer

Today, more men are surviving prostate cancer than ever before. Treatment can be effective, especially when the cancer has not spread beyond the region of the prostate.