What Is Prostate Cancer?
The prostate (pros-tate) is a gland found only in men. The prostate is about the size of a walnut. It is just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The tube that carries urine (the urethra) runs through the prostate. The prostate contains cells that make some of the seminal fluid. This fluid protects and nourishes the sperm.
Male hormones cause the prostate gland to develop in the fetus. The prostate keeps on growing as a boy grows to manhood. If male hormone levels are low, the prostate gland will not grow to full size. In older men, though, the part of the prostate around the urethra often keeps on growing. This causes BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) which can result in problems with urinating.
Although there are several cell types in the prostate, nearly all prostate cancers start in the gland cells. This kind of cancer is known as adenocarcinoma. The rest of this information refers only to prostate adenocarcinoma.
Most of the time, prostate cancer grows slowly. Autopsy studies show that many older men who died of other diseases also had prostate cancer that neither they nor their doctor were aware of. But sometimes prostate cancer can grow and spread quickly. Even with the latest methods, it is hard to tell which prostate cancers will grow slowly and which will grow quickly.
Some doctors believe that prostate cancer begins with very small changes in the size and shape of the prostate gland cells. These changes are known as PIN (prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia). These changes can be either low-grade (almost normal) or high-grade (abnormal).
If you have had a prostate biopsy that showed high-grade PIN, there is a greater chance that there are cancer cells in your prostate. For this reason, you will be watched carefully and may need another biopsy.