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Prostate Cancer: What It Is and How Doctors Treat It

I'm Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Health Report.

A listener in Vietnam recently asked what causes prostate cancer and how this disease is treated.

The prostate gland is part of the reproductive system in males. Scientists are not sure what causes cancer of the prostate. But they have found things that can influence the development.

Men with fathers or brothers who have had prostate cancer are more likely to get the disease. Also, the World Health Organization says diet may affect a man's chances. Prostate cancer appears more common in groups that eat a lot of animal fat, such as red meats and high-fat milk products.

The W.H.O. says about two hundred fifty thousand men each year die from prostate cancer. The death rate is about ten times higher in Europe and North America than in Asia. In the United States, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. The first is lung cancer from smoking.

The American Cancer Society says exercise might help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is common in older men. The National Cancer Institute says more than seventy percent of men with the disease are age sixty-five or older.

Most prostate cancers grow slowly. Some never cause any major problems. In these cases, a doctor might suggest simply watching for changes. In other cases, doctors may want to remove the prostate. This is a complex operation.

A third kind of treatment involves the use of high energy X-rays to kill the cancer cells. Or a doctor may place small radioactive seeds in the prostate. Doctors have greater control with this method, so there is less risk of damage to healthy tissue.

Cancer that has spread beyond the prostate gland may require more aggressive treatment.

An enlarged prostate can be a sign of cancer. But the prostate normally increases in size as men get older. This can put pressure on the bladder and restrict the flow of waste. It can also affect sexual ability. And it can cause pain in the lower back and upper part of the legs.

Doctors say one of the most important ways to reduce the risk of death from prostate cancer is to find the disease early. A doctor can feel the prostate for any hardness or growth. There is also a blood test to measure levels of a protein that might signal the presence of cancer.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Caty Weaver. I'm Gwen Outen.