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About Prostate Cancer (PDF)

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in U.S. men. Fortunately, when diagnosed early, prostate cancer has a better chance of being treated effectively. If caught early, more than 99% of people diagnosed today with prostate cancer will be alive in five years.

The prostate is a small, walnut-shaped gland in the male reproductive system. It sits just below the bladder and surrounds the upper part of the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder. The prostate is necessary for reproduction and helps make some of the fluid in semen. It also produces prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a substance that may increase if a man has prostate cancer. Elevated PSA levels don’t always mean cancer. PSA levels can also increase due to age, recent sexual or physical activity, or an enlarged or inflamed prostate gland.

What is Prostate Cancer?

Illustration showing location of the prostate in the body

Prostate cancer occurs when prostate cells stop behaving normally. Normal cells grow, divide, and die on a regular basis. Sometimes something goes wrong with this process and the cells don’t die as they should. Instead, they grow and divide and cause a tumor. Tumors can be benign, meaning non-cancerous, or malignant, meaning cancerous.

Most prostate cancer grows very slowly with many men never knowing they have the disease. However, some prostate cancers are aggressive and will spread beyond the prostate to other parts of the body such as the bones, lymph nodes, and lungs.

Symptoms and the Importance of Early Detection

Most men do not have symptoms when prostate cancer is at an early stage. Some symptoms, such as frequent or painful urination, difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, or painful ejaculation, can be mistaken for other disorders. Common symptoms of advanced prostate cancer may include pelvic or back pain, leg weakness, anemia, and weight loss.

Prostate cancer is most frequently detected with a PSA blood test and a digital rectal exam (DRE). Both tests can easily be done in a doctor’s office. If there is concern with the results of the PSA test or DRE, the doctor might request a biopsy, which is how prostate cancer is diagnosed.

It is important to understand your personal risk and talk with your doctor about routine testing. Early detection saves lives.

Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

Risk Factors

All men are at risk of developing prostate cancer at some time in their lives, but certain factors may increase a man’s chances of a diagnosis:

  • Age – almost all prostate cancer occurs in men age 50 and over
  • Race – Black men are 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with and 2.1 times more likely to die from prostate cancer than white men
  • Family history – father, brother, or a son with prostate cancer, as well as close relatives with breast, ovarian, or pancreatic cancer
  • Diet – eating large amounts of animal fat can increase riskChemical exposure – those exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals
  • Genes – certain genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2


If prostate cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will determine the extent (Stage) and grade (Gleason score) of the cancer. This information helps identify the best treatment options for your situation. Learning all you can about treatment options and finding the right prostate cancer care team will help you make the most informed decisions.

Many treatments for prostate cancer can cause side effects that are disruptive, such as urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Consider all of your options before deciding on a plan, especially if diagnosed with slow-growing cancer that is not aggressive.

Treatment options include:

  • Active Surveillance
  • Local Therapies
    • Surgery
    • Radiation
    • High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU)
    • Cryotherapy
  • Systemic Therapies
    • Hormone Therapy
    • Immunotherapy
    • Targeted Therapy
    • Radiopharmaceuticals
    • Chemotherapy
  • Clinical Trials

Your doctor and care team should be open to any questions you have regarding your diagnosis, and they should be fully supportive of any second opinions you might wish to seek.

Questions for the Doc

  • What is the stage of my cancer?
  • Has my cancer spread and, if so, how far?
  • How aggressive is the cancer?
  • What are all of my treatment options?
  • What are the possible side effects of each treatment?
  • Should I get a second opinion?


Once you have completed your treatment, talk with your doctor about your follow-up plan. Find out what tests are recommended and how often you need to return for screening. It is important to stay on top of your screenings. Ask about a treatment summary. This is a convenient way to record your diagnosis and any treatment decisions you and your care team have made to fight the disease. A treatment summary is a helpful tool for any doctors who care for you during your lifetime.

Infographic: 3,100,000 men are living with prostate cancer

Life after treatment for prostate cancer may be different from before you were diagnosed. Remember, you are not alone. More than 3.1 million men are living with prostate cancer in the U.S. Continue talking to your healthcare providers about nutrition, physical therapy, ongoing side effects, and how you can not only survive, but thrive.

About Prostate Cancer 2-Page Guide
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