Prostate cancer is a malignant tumor that originates in the prostate gland. As with any cancer, if it is advanced or left untreated in early stages, it may eventually spread through the blood and lymph fluid to other organs. Fortunately, prostate cancer tends to be slow growing compared to other cancers. As many as 90% of all prostate cancers remain dormant and clinically unimportant for decades. Most older men eventually develop at least microscopic evidence of prostate cancer, but it often grows so slowly that, many men with prostate cancer "die with it, rather than from it."
Description of the Prostate Gland
The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland located below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It wraps around the urethra (the tube that carries urine through the penis). The central area of the prostate that wraps around the urethra is called the transition zone. The entire prostate gland is surrounded by a dense, fibrous capsule.
Functions of the Prostate Gland
The prostate gland provides the following functions:
Changes During the Lifespan
The prostate gland undergoes many changes during the course of a man's life. At birth, the prostate is about the size of a pea. It grows only slightly until puberty, when it begins to enlarge rapidly, attaining normal adult size and shape, about that of a walnut, when a man reaches his early 20s. The gland generally remains stable until men reach their mid-40s, when, in most men, the prostate begins to enlarge again through a process of cell multiplication.
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Review Date: 07/26/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.