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Prostate Cancer: Overview

Prostate cancer is a common, but usually slow-growing cancer (compared to other types of cancer).  The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system. It is surrounded by other glands, nerves and organs involved in urinary, sexual, and bowel function.  Although you can live without a prostate, its location makes prostate cancer difficult to treat.  One in every six men (17%) will develop prostate cancer in his lifetime, and 3% of all men will die of this disease (over 27,000 men per year).  Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States (behind lung cancer).

Early prostate cancer has no symptoms.  Therefore, screening is essential.  Two tests are commonly used to detect prostate cancer.  One is a blood test called prostate specific antigen or PSA.  The other is a digital rectal exam (DRE).  Men should start yearly screening at age 40.  Some men with risk factors choose to take a PSA test prior to age 40 in order to establish a baseline level for future comparison. Once the disease is detected, there may be several effective treatment options.