Prostate Cancer Diagnosis in Men Over 65 Years of Age

By: Muna wa Wanjiru

Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in men, and the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in America, other than skin cancer. One out of every six American men will develop prostate cancer at some point in his life, and an American man is 33% more likely to get prostate cancer than an American woman is to get breast cancer.

The prostate is a male sexual reproductive organ, in front of the rectum, and just below the urinary bladder. A healthy prostate averages around 3 centimeters in diameter, and weighs around 20 grams. The prostate is responsible for producing and storing some of the fluids that comprise semen. Within the prostate are many little glands where this fluid production occurs. The cells in these glands, like most cells of the body, live for a while before dying and being replaced in an orderly fashion. Prostate cancer occurs when new cells are made in these glands in an abnormal fashion, growing out of control and forming a tumor. Tumors can either be benign, or malignant. A malignant tumor of the prostate gland is called prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer in itself is not fatal. The danger of prostate cancer is that the cancer cells may spread or 'metastasize' to other vital areas of the body. This is a danger of any kind of cancer, and occurs when cancer cells circulate through the body by way of blood or lymph. Common areas where the cancer cells may invade are bones, lungs, brain and lymph nodes, and cancers in these areas can be fatal.

Over 70% of prostate cancer is diagnosed in men over 65 years of age, and the majority of the other cases are found in men over 50, although it can sometimes occur in even very young men. Prostate cancer is normally a relatively slow growing cancer, especially in older men, and therefore many men with prostate cancer will end up dying from some other unrelated cause before the cancer causes any serious damage.

It is unclear as to what the causes behind prostate cancer are. It is known that the cells in the prostate glands operate under the control of male sex hormones, such as testosterone, and the development of cancer in the gland may be hormone related. There is also evidence to suggest that genetics and diet both play a part in the likelihood in developing the cancer.

In its early stages, prostate cancer often has no noticeable symptoms. It is therefore wise for any male over the age of 50 to regularly receive a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, which can detect early stage forms of the cancer. If caught in the earlier stages, the chances of recovering from prostate cancer are very good with today's available treatments.

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