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Home Science Diseases & Conditions Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate, a small walnut-shaped gland in men that makes and stores semen. After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the U.S.1

Many men with prostate cancer never experience symptoms and, without screening, would never know they even have the disease.2 Most men who are diagnosed with this disease do not die from it.1 Detecting prostate cancer early is important because this is when it’s easier to treat.3

  • Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate. Prostate cancer usually grows very slowly and stays in the prostate, and treatment may not be needed at all. However, some prostate cancers grow and spread quickly and can be life-threatening.4

  • Researchers do not know exactly what causes prostate cancer. But there are several factors that may increase a person’s risk for developing it, including:5

    • Age. The risk of prostate cancer increases as you age. Average age at diagnosis is 66.
    • Race. African American men and Caribbean men of African descent have a higher risk for developing prostate cancer. These group of men tend to be diagnosed at a younger age.5 Prostate cancer in African American men tend to be more advanced and more aggressive.6
    • Family history. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing this disease.
    • Genetic mutation. Having a family history of genes that increase the risk of breast cancer (such as BRCA1 or BRCA2) raises your risk of prostate cancer.
  • The early stages of prostate cancer may not cause any symptoms. Advanced prostate cancers can sometimes cause signs and symptoms, such as:7

    • Problems urinating, including a slow or weak urinary stream or the need to urinate more often, especially at night.
    • Blood in the urine or semen.
    • Trouble getting an erection.
    • Pain in the hips, back, chest, or other areas from cancer that has spread to bones.
    • Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet, or loss of bladder or bowel control from cancer pressing on the spinal cord.
  • The most common prostate cancer screening tests include:4

    • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. PSA is a substance that can be found in blood. Elevated PSA levels are often found in men with prostate cancer.
    • Digital rectal exam (DRE). The doctor feels for hard areas or lumps in the prostate by inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum. The DRE cannot detect prostate cancer alone. It is usually done with a PSA test.

    Further testing (such as imaging tests, biopsy) is often required if the results from a PSA blood test, DRE or other tests comes back abnormal.8

  • Prostate cancer treatment depends on several factors, such as how fast the cancer is growing, how much it has spread and your overall health. Treatment options may include watchful waiting, surgery, radiation, and other types of therapies (e.g., cryotherapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy).9,10

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