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Prostate Cancer Basics: Understanding the Prostate Gland and Cancer Fundamentals

By Dr. Tushar Aditya Narain in Robotic Surgery , Urology , Cancer Care / Oncology , Uro-Oncology , Surgical Oncology

Jun 14 , 2024 | 2 min read

Prostate cancer is a topic that often remains shrouded in misunderstanding and stigma, much like many other cancers. However, it's crucial to shed light on this disease, which affects millions of men worldwide. To begin our journey into prostate cancer awareness, let's delve into the basics, starting with what prostate cancer is and the role of the prostate gland in the male body.

What is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer develops in the prostate gland. It is a small, walnut-shaped organ located just below the bladder in men. It produces seminal fluid, a milky substance that nourishes and transports sperm during ejaculation. While this function is critical for reproduction, the prostate can also be susceptible to various health issues, with prostate cancer being one of the most concerning.

Understanding the Prostate Gland

The prostate gland might be small, but it has several essential functions:

  • Seminal Fluid Production: The primary role of the prostate is producing seminal fluid, which makes up a significant portion of semen. This fluid contains enzymes and nutrients that help protect and nourish sperm, enhancing their chances of fertilizing an egg.
  • Muscle Control: Muscles in the prostate gland help propel seminal fluid in the urethra during ejaculation. This action aids in the expulsion of semen from the body.
  • Urethra Support: The prostate surrounds the urethra and acts as a kind of sphincter, helping to control the flow of urine and prevent it from mixing with semen during ejaculation. The internal sphincters also play a vital role in maintaining urinary continence.

Prostate Cancer: The Unwanted Intruder

Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate gland start growing uncontrollably. These abnormal cells can form tumors, and if left untreated, they may spread to other body parts like the bones and lymph nodes. It is known as metastasis and can make the cancer more challenging to treat.

The exact cause of prostate cancer is unclear, but various factors are believed to contribute to its development, including age, family history, genetics, and hormonal imbalances. Prostate cancer is commonly diagnosed in men over the age of 50, and the risk increases with age.

Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer 

In the early stages, prostate cancer often may not cause noticeable symptoms. However, as cancer progresses, it may lead to:

  • Frequent urination, especially at night.
  • Weak urine flow.
  • Difficulty in starting and maintaining a steady stream of urine.
  • Blood in the urine or semen.
  • Pain or discomfort in the pelvic area or lower back.
  • Erectile dysfunction

It's necessary to know these symptoms can also be caused by non-cancerous conditions, like an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia). Therefore, experiencing these symptoms does not necessarily mean one has prostate cancer. However, any persistent or concerning symptoms should prompt a visit to a uro oncologist for further evaluation.

Understanding the prostate gland's role in the male reproductive system and the basics of prostate cancer is a fundamental step in raising awareness about this disease. Early detection by regular screenings is essential for effective treatment and improved outcomes.