According to the CDCâ€™s 2004-2005 fact sheet, they expect there to be 230,110 new cases of prostate cancer
diagnosed in 2004. Prostate cancer
is the second most common cancer
among men. Skin cancer
is number one. It is also the second leading cause of cancer
deaths in men (lung cancer
is number one).
The prostate is a small organ (about the size of a golf ball) of the male reproductive system. It is responsible for the creation and secretion of fluids that make up a portion of semen. It is located inferior to the bladder and directly anterior to the rectum (see fig. 1).
A portion of the urethra passes thru it.
is the abnormal and sometimes uncontrolled growth of cells. Most cells tightly regulate when and how frequently they undergo mitosis. Most cells can also detect when they have a genetic abnormality and will self destruct if the abnormality is unrepairable. Cancer
cells lack the ability to control mitosis or self destruct in the presence of genetic abnormalities.
For prostate cancer
, there is an abnormal growth of epithelial cells that line the ducts of the prostate. Many of the symptoms associated with prostate cancer
involve urination. Urination may been painful, bloody, difficult, or frequent during night time. For most men, prostate cancer
may be present and they will not have any symptoms until the cancer
has already grown. The majority of men diagnosed with prostate cancer
are above the age of 70.
There are two types of tests used to try and identify prostate cancer
. The first test designed to identify prostate cancer
examines the prostate by manually feeling the prostate thru the rectum (DRE). Since the prostate lies directly anterior to the rectum, any size change or malformation may be detected. A more recently designed test, the PSA (prostate specific antigen) tests the blood for an antigen created by a cancerous prostate. The prognosis for prostate cancer
depends on how early it is detected and its aggressiveness. If it is detected early it will have a better prognosis than later. Also more aggressive forms will be much harder to deal with. Prostate cancer
is capable of reaching stage 4 and infecting nearby organs and lymph nodes.
to date on prostate cancer
leads researchers to believe that it is a multi-chromosomal disorder. The first chromosome to be identified with prostate cancer
was chromosome #1. More recently chromosome #7 has also been identified to be involved in prostate cancer
. Like most cancers
, there is more than just a genetic component. Current numbers show that genes only account for about 10 percent of all prostate cancers
. Other factors such as life style and diet are also important factors. Having the faulty genes only appears to be a pre-disposition to the disease rather than a simple cause.
The portion of chromosome one that has been identified is often referred to as HPC1 (human prostate cancer
1). It is believed that this chromosomal anomaly is responsible for interfering with the cells ability correctly control cellular division. In contrast, the anomaly on chromosome 7 is believed to deactivate the cells self destruct mechanism. Since the affected genes only predispose a person to the disease, research
has been focused on treatment and early screening rather than patterns of inheritance. Some researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research
center found that the anomaly on chromosome 7 was passed on more frequently than would be expected by chance inheritance.
As is the case of most cancers
, inheritance of the defective genes does not guarantee that the subject will get the cancer
. The genes merely predispose or increase the likely hood of the disease. For prostate cancer
, the disease does not usually appear until the later stages of life. As a result, prenatal screening has not been considered a priority for researchers.
There are a wide variety of options that a patient has when it comes to treatment. One deciding factor is the stage at which the cancer
is. If it is a late stage cancer
(stage 4 has already spread to other organs) the disease can be fatal. If the cancer
has been spotted early enough chemotherapy or surgery may be options. Researchers are also looking into possible gene therapies. By adding replacement vectors into virus coded specifically to react with cancerous prostate cells researchers have been able to destroy the cancerous cells. Another approach is to try and replace the disease causing genes with the correct genes. This approach is still in experimental phases.
Figure 1 (marieb)
Center for Disease Control Website:
Institute Website: prostate symptoms
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research
Gene Ther Mol Biol Vol 4, 233-248. December 1999.
Marieb, Elaine N (2004) Human Anatomy & Physiology (3rd ed)
Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco
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