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Prostate Cancer



Prostate Cancer is one of the most common cancers among men in the United States.  This year alone, an estimated 185,000 men will be diagnosed with Prostate Cancer and around 30,000 men will die from it.  The cancer originates in the prostate, a walnut-size gland located at the base of the urinary bladder.  Early stages of Prostate Cancer are generally asymptomatic.  As the disease progresses, frequent but weaker urination becomes evident.  Swollen lymph nodes in the groin area, hematuria (blood in the urine), impotence and pain in the groin, spine, hips and ribs may be present in advanced stages of Prostate Cancer.  However, these symptoms may be associated with a variety of other diseases.


Men may be tested for Prostate Cancer two ways.  The first is a simple blood test called PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test.  The other is a digital rectal exam (DRE) performed by a physician.  Testing is highly recommended to men over the age of 40 years, especially if they have a family history of Prostate Cancer.  A definitive diagnosis is made through a core needle biopsy.


Affected individuals have a variety of options regarding treatment.  These include the removal of the prostate, radiation to kill cancerous cells, and hormonal therapies to slow the growth of malignant cells. 


The exact cause of Prostate Cancer is unknown.  Risk of Prostate Cancer increases with age and is more predominant among African-Americans.  Men with familial history of Prostate Cancer are at an increased risk, lending support to a belief that Prostate Cancer may be hereditary in some cases.  Some cases of Prostate Cancer have been traced to genetic abnormalities.  In diseases that are more prevalent in one gender than the other, as in the case of Prostate Cancer, where it exclusively occurs among males, a new test may help reduce the chances of having an affected child. In Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), embryos are tested for genetic abnormalities and their gender determined prior to implantation.  Using PGD to implant only female embryos will ensure the couple with a strong family history of this disease that their child will not be affected with Prostate Cancer.  Couples should consult with a genetic counselor about their actions.  PGD can currently test for a variety of diseases, inclusive of X-linked diseases, and those that primarily affect a specific gender.  PGD is continuously being improved so we may be able to test for more and more genetic disorders in the near future.



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Last modified: 06/09/04