Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men (after skin cancer), but it can often be treated successfully.

What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?

A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer.

  • Age: Prostate cancer is very rare in men younger than 40, but the chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50.
  • Race/ethnicity: Prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men and in Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races.
  • Family history: Prostate cancer seems to run in some families, which suggests that in some cases there may be an inherited or genetic factor.
  • Gene changes: Scientists have found several inherited gene changes that seem to raise prostate cancer risk, but they probably account for only a small percentage of cases overall.
  • Diet: Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer.
  • Obesity: Most studies have not found that being obese (very overweight) is linked with a higher overall risk of getting prostate cancer.

Can prostate cancer be found early?

Screening refers to testing to find a disease such as cancer in people who don’t have symptoms of that disease.

  • By testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in a man’s blood.
  • Digital rectal exam (DRE), in which the doctor puts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland.

Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer

Early prostate cancer usually causes no symptoms. But more advanced prostate cancers can sometimes cause symptoms, such as:

  • Problems passing urine, including a slow or weak urinary stream or the need to urinate more often, especially at night.
  • Blood in the urine
  • Trouble getting an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • Pain in the hips, back (spine), chest (ribs), or other areas from cancer that has spread to bones
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet, or even loss of bladder or bowel control from cancer pressing on the spinal cord.

Other conditions can also cause many of these same symptoms. For example, trouble passing urine is much more often caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) than cancer.

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

  • Medical history and physical exam
  • PSA blood test
  • Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS)
  • Prostate biopsy
  • Bone scan
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

How is prostate cancer treated?

Depending on the situation, the treatment options for men with prostate cancer might include:

  • Expectant management (watchful waiting) or active surveillance
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Cryosurgery (cryotherapy)
  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Vaccine treatment
  • Bone-directed treatment

These treatments are generally used one at a time, although in some cases they may be combined.

The treatment you choose for prostate cancer should take into account:

  • Your age and expected life span
  • Any other serious health conditions you have
  • The stage and grade of your cancer
  • Your feelings (and your doctor’s opinion) about the need to treat the cancer right away
  • The likelihood that each type of treatment will cure your cancer (or help in some other way)
  • Your feelings about the possible side effects from each treatment

What happens after treatment for prostate cancer?

Follow-up care

Your doctor should give you a follow-up plan. This plan usually includes regular doctor visits and PSA blood tests, with digital rectal exams if your prostate hasn’t been removed. These will probably begin within a few months of finishing treatment. Most doctors recommend PSA tests about every 6 months for the first 5 years after treatment, and at least yearly after that. Bone scans or other imaging tests might also be done, depending on your medical situation.