The Prostate and Prostate Cancer

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a gland found only in men. It is about the size of a walnut, is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum (back passage), and it produces a thick fluid that forms part of the semen.

Prostate cancer occurs when the cells of the prostate grow in an uncontrolled, abnormal, manner. This can cause the prostate gland to enlarge, which, in turn, may cause problems with passing urine; if the prostate becomes enlarged it may obstruct the urethra (or urine tube) which passes through the prostate from the bladder to the penis.

In a small number of men, prostate cancer can cause additional symptoms particularly if the cancer spreads outside of the prostate to the bones, lymph nodes , and/or other parts of the body.

How common is prostate cancer?

With around 32,000 diagnoses each year , prostate cancer has become the UK’s most common male cancer, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer. It is the second most commonly diagnosed male cancer worldwide (after lung cancer), and with over 650,000 cases diagnosed each year it accounts for a tenth of all new male cancers1.

Prostate cancer is primarily a disease of the elderly, and it is rarely diagnosed in men under the age of 45. Prostate cancer incidence rises rapidly with age, and globally, three-quarters of cases occur in men over the age of 65 . As the world’s population ages, prostate cancer is set to become an increasingly important health problem.