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For information on cancer
that has come back or spread to other parts of the body, see the topic
Prostate Cancer, Advanced or Metastatic.
What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the
abnormal growth of cells in a man's
prostate gland . The prostate sits just below the bladder. It makes part of the
semen. In young men, the prostate is about the size of
a walnut. As men age, the prostate usually grows larger.
cancer is common in men older than 65. It usually grows slowly and can take
years to grow large enough to cause any problems. As with other cancers, treatment for prostate cancer works best when the cancer is found early. Often, prostate cancer that has spread responds to treatment. Older men who have prostate cancer usually die from other causes.
Experts don't know what causes
prostate cancer, but they believe that your age, family history (genetics), and
race affect your chances of getting it. What you eat, such as foods high in
fats, may also play a part.
What are the symptoms?
Prostate cancer usually
doesn't cause symptoms in its early stages. Most men don't know they have it
until it is found during a regular medical exam.
When problems are
noticed, they are most often problems with urinating. But these same symptoms
can also be caused by an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia). An enlarged prostate is common in older men.
See your doctor for a checkup if:
- You have urinary problems, such as:
- Not being able to urinate at all.
- Having a hard time starting or stopping the flow of urine.
- Having to urinate often, especially at night.
- Having pain or burning during urination.
- You have difficulty having an erection.
have blood in your urine or semen.
- You have deep and frequent pain in your lower back, belly, hip, or
How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
The most common
way to check for prostate cancer is to have a
digital rectal exam, in which the doctor puts a
gloved, lubricated finger in your rectum to feel your prostate, and a
prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. A higher
level of PSA may mean that you have prostate cancer. But it could also mean
that you have an enlargement or infection of the prostate.
PSA is high, or if your doctor finds anything during the rectal exam, he or she
may do a
prostate biopsy to figure out the cause. A biopsy means that your
doctor takes tissue samples from your prostate gland and sends them to a lab
How is prostate cancer treated?
will depend on what kind of cancer cells you have, how far they have spread,
your age and general health, and your preferences.
You and your
doctor may decide to treat your cancer with surgery, radiation, hormone
therapy, or a combination. Or if you have cancer that is low-risk and hasn't spread (early stage), you may be able to
wait and watch with active surveillance to see what happens. During active surveillance, you will have regular checkups with your doctor to see if your cancer
Choosing treatment for prostate cancer can be
confusing. Talk with your doctor to choose the treatment that's best for you.
How can treatment affect your quality of life?
Your age and overall health will make a difference in how treatment may
affect your quality of life. Any health problems you have before you are
treated, especially urinary, bowel, or sexual function problems, will affect
how you recover.
Both surgery and radiation can cause
urinary incontinence (leaking urine) or impotence (not being able to have an erection). The level of
urinary incontinence and how long it lasts and the quality of the erections a
man has after treatment will depend on whether the cancer has spread. These
also depend on what treatment is used.
Nerves that help a man
have an erection are right next to the prostate. Surgery to remove the cancer
may damage these nerves. Many times a special form of surgery, called
nerve-sparing surgery, can preserve the nerves. But if the cancer has spread to
the nerves, they may have to be removed during surgery.
same nerves can also be damaged by the X-rays that are used in radiation
Medicines and mechanical aids may help men who are
impotent because of treatment. Some men recover part or most of their ability
to have an erection several months or even years after surgery.
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