Table of Contents
- What is the Prostate?
- What does it do
- What is Prostate Cancer?
- Black Men and Prostate Cancer
- Other Factors
- Risk Factors
- Other Prostate Conditions
- Screening and PSA Test
- Digital Rectal Exam
- Biopsy and Other Tests
- Diagnosis and Staging
- Grading with Gleason Score
- I’ve Been Diagnosed… Now What?
- Active Surveillance
- Other Treatments
- Cost of Treatment in Ontario
- Side Effects
- Lifestyle Changes
- Sexual Health
- For Caregivers: Friends and Family
- What to do Next
What is Prostate Cancer?
In general, cancer is a condition in which a normal cell becomes abnormal and starts to grow and/or reproduce uncontrollably without having the signals or “brakes” that stop typical cell growth.
Prostate cancer occurs when a normal prostate cell begins to grow out of control. In many cases, prostate cancer is a slow-growing cancer that does not spread beyond the prostate gland before the time of diagnosis.
Once prostate cancer forms, it feeds on male hormones (called androgens) like testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and uses them as fuel for growth. This is why one of the main treatments for men, especially with advanced prostate cancer, is to lower a man’s androgen levels with drugs collectively termed hormone therapy.
Not all prostate cancer cells are alike. Prostate cancers that are composed of very abnormal cells are much more likely to both divide quickly and spread, or metastasize, from the prostate to other regions of the body. Often, prostate cancer spreads first to tissues that are near the prostate, including the seminal vesicles and nearby lymph nodes.
In many cases, prostate cancer is relatively slow-growing, which means that it can take years to become large enough to be detectable, and even longer to metastasize outside the prostate. Some cases are more aggressive and need more urgent treatment.
However, it is still extremely important to get early screening for prostate cancer in order to catch it early. If it is detected early, you still have options to treat and manage it, and your long term survival rate is very high. But if it is detected late, treatment options may be limited and your survival rates are significantly lower.
When a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, the medical team will evaluate his cancer and his overall health to custom-design a treatment path that will give him the greatest chance of beating the cancer. Treatment can range from a wait-and-watch approach to a very aggressive medical and surgical plan.
Scientific research does not yet know what exactly causes prostate cells to become cancerous, but it is likely related to multiple factors affecting each other. This may include your ethnicity, genes from your parents, lifestyle choices including diet and exercise, and your environment. Even if it is not yet fully understood what causes prostate cancer, there are still actions you should take to detect and treat the disease.