What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men (not counting skin cancer) in the U.S. It tends to occur mainly in older men. In most cases prostate cancer is found before it has spread to other parts of the body. Cancer that hasn’t spread is easier to treat and cure.
What are the different types of prostate cancer?
Cancer is tumors or growths that can grow into nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. Nearly all types of prostate cancer start in the gland cells. These are the cells that make the prostate fluid. These types of cancer are called adenocarcinoma. Other types of cancer can also start in the prostate. These include small cell carcinoma, transitional cell carcinoma, and sarcoma. But these types of cancer are rare. Most men with prostate cancer have adenocarcinoma.
Other types of growths can happen in the prostate. Some types of growth are not cancer (benign).
These types of growths include:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). As a man ages, the prostate can grow larger. This is called BPH. It’s a common condition. BPH is not prostate cancer. It doesn't turn into prostate cancer. But BPH can cause the prostate to press on the urethra. This can lead to symptoms, such as trouble urinating, which might need to be treated.
- Prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN). This is an abnormal prostate growth that may be found with a prostate biopsy. It is not prostate cancer. PIN can be low grade or high grade. Low-grade PIN is common, especially as men get older. Most healthcare providers don’t consider it to be a concern. Men who have high-grade PIN have a chance that cancer is somewhere else in the prostate.
Prostate cancer growth and spread
Prostate cancer tends to grow slowly. It can often be found and treated while it is still just in the prostate. In fact, some cases of prostate cancer may not need to be treated right away. But other cases of prostate cancer can grow quickly. The first place cancer grows in the body is called the primary site or primary tumor.
If prostate cancer is not treated and continues to grow, it can grow into other parts of the prostate. Over time it may grow outside of the prostate and into nearby tissues, such as the seminal vesicles. When cancer spreads to other parts of the body, this is called metastasis. Once the cancer has grown outside the prostate, it can spread to nearby lymph nodes. These are bean-sized glands all around the body that are part of the immune system. If prostate cancer spreads to distant parts of the body, most often it goes to the bones first. It may also spread to other organs, such as the lungs, liver, or brain.