Key Points about Prostate Cancer
- Prostate cancer is a common cancer that only occurs in men.
- Screening exams for men over age 50 or for younger men at an increased risk are the best way to diagnose prostate cancer in its early stage and, therefore, increase the chance of effective treatment.
- Treatment for prostate cancer may include a combination of surgical procedures and/or radiation or medication therapies.
Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that affects the prostate, which is a small male gland that produces the seminal fluid that transports sperm. Prostate cancer is a common cancer in men, and it can spread easily to other parts of the body if not diagnosed and treated early.
Prostate cancer causes
Cancer occurs when some types of cells start to grow abnormally. These abnormal cells grow more quickly than healthy cells, leading to the formation of a mass.
Prostate cancer risk factors
Factors that can increase your risk of developing prostate cancer are:
- Being African-American
- Being obese
- Being older
- Having a family history of prostate cancer or breast cancer
- Having specific genes, including the breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) or breast cancer 2 (BRCA2) gene
Prostate cancer symptoms
In its early stages, prostate cancer doesn’t usually cause any symptoms. When they do occur in later stages, signs and symptoms include:
- Blood in semen
- Bone pain
- Decreased force in the urine stream
- Difficulty urinating
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Pain and discomfort in the pelvic area
Prostate cancer diagnosis
Your specialist may recommend one or more of the following tests to diagnose prostate cancer:
- Ultrasound. Your doctor may order an ultrasound to obtain detailed images of your prostate gland to check for abnormalities.
- Biopsy. Your specialist removes a small tissue sample (biopsy) from your prostate for close analysis in the lab.
- Imaging tests. If diagnosed, your specialist may use other imaging tests – such as a bone scan, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) scan – to stage your prostate cancer and determine your best course of treatment.
Prostate cancer treatment
Your specialist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options for prostate cancer:
- Watchful waiting. In some cases – such as if the prostate cancer is diagnosed early and is confined to the prostate – the first course of treatment will be watchful waiting and surveillance. During this period, your specialist may perform regular follow-up blood tests and exams to monitor the progression of the condition.
- Prostatectomy. Your specialist may need to perform a surgical procedure to remove the entire prostate gland, some surrounding tissue and a few lymph nodes.
- Radiation therapy. This treatment uses high-energy beams – such as X-ray or protons – to destroy cancerous cells. People typically have to undergo several rounds of radiation therapy treatment for results.
- Hormone therapy. In this treatment, medications help prevent your body from producing the male hormone testosterone. Cancer cells in the prostate use testosterone to grow, so eliminating this hormone can cause the prostate cancer cells to die or at least grow more slowly.
- Chemotherapy. This treatment involves using medications – either oral (by mouth) or intravenous (by vein) – to destroy cancer cells.
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.