The prostate is a small gland about the size of a golf ball. It’s found only in men. It sits just below the bladder and surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that takes urine from the bladder to outside the body. The prostate produces some of the fluid that makes up semen. The growth of the prostate depends on the male sex hormone, testosterone, which is made by the testes.
It’s common for the prostate to get larger as men grow older. This is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Symptoms of BPH include poor urinary flow, needing to urinate often at night, and trouble starting to urinate. These are quite common in older men. They usually don’t have anything to do with cancer.
Prostate cancer is a malignant tumour of the prostate. Prostate cancers can be in two main forms:
Early prostate cancers (also known as localised prostate cancer) are contained within the prostate. In some cases they may not cause problems for many years and may not need treatment. However some early cancers grow and spread quickly.
Advanced prostate cancer implies the cancer has grown faster and spread to the tissues outside the prostate and to other places in the body.
Prostate cancer can spread to lymph nodes in the pelvis and through the blood to other parts of the body, such as the bones and lungs. Most types of cancer spread, but treatment can often stop this happening.
Causes of prostate cancer
The exact cause/s of prostate cancer are not known.
However, the chance of getting prostate cancer increases:
as you get older: more than half of all new prostate cancers affect men over the age of 70
if your father or a brother had prostate cancer, especially at an early age. Your risk is higher if you have more than one relative affected in this way.
How common is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men (apart from common skin cancers). Around 4680 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Victoria each year.