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Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men. It’s an abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells within your prostate gland. This happens as a result of mutation (random changes) of healthy cells, leading to cancerous cells developing. These cancerous cells form larger clumps known as tumours. This is a problem because a growing tumour can destroy the normal cells around the tumour and spread to damage the body’s other healthy tissues.

Prostate cancer does not always pose a threat to health but certainly can, depending on its aggressiveness (or ‘grade’). In the UK alone, some 40,000 cases are diagnosed each year, with 99% of these cases in men aged over 50. 10,000 men a year die of prostate cancer, which equates to roughly one man every hour. Apart from grade, the other measure of the seriousness a prostate cancer is its ‘stage’ – or the extent to which it has spread in the prostate gland. These two measures – grade and stage – have a large influence on how we decide to treat it, as some prostate cancers may be slow-growing. Other prostate cancers may be aggressive, requiring prompt medical treatment.

Next chapter: causes and prevention of prostate cancer

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