Patient's Guide to Prostate Cancer: What is Prostate Cancer?
The prostate is a walnut-sized organ located below the bladder and in front of the rectum in the male reproductive system. It surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. The gland's main function is to produce fluid for semen, which nourishes and transports sperm cells.
Over time, some prostate cells may become cancerous. Sometimes, the cancer can be very small, be present only on one side of the prostate, and appear to be totally confined within the prostate. Most often, the cancer is present in more than one site, in one or both sides of the gland.
The cancer cells can spread outside the prostate to nearby organs, such as the seminal vesicles, or to the lymph nodes in the pelvic area. They eventually can spread to more distant parts of the body, most often to the bones. Determining whether the cancer is confined to the prostate or localized, or whether it has spread either locally or to more distant sites, is very important in selecting treatment.
Return to the Patient's Guide to Prostate Cancer Index:
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.