Prostate Cancer

Each year, urologists (doctors who specialize in diseases of urinary and sex organs in men, and urinary organs in women) diagnose more than 186,000 American men with prostate cancer. Only skin cancer is more common among men in the United States.

Prostate cancer forms in tissues of the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system found below the bladder and in front of the rectum.

Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

It appears that the most significant risk factor is age. More than 70% of men diagnosed with this disease are over the age of 65. African American men have a substantially higher risk of prostate cancer than white or Hispanic men. There is evidence that dietary and genetic factors also play a role. The risk of prostate cancer rises with the number of close relatives who have the disease.

Prostate Cancer Symptoms

Prostate cancer may cause pain and difficulty in urinating, problems during sexual intercourse, erectile dysfunction and frequent pain in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs. However, these symptoms are present only in advanced stages of the disease because, in most cases, it progresses slowly. In advanced stages it can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body, especially the bones and lymph nodes.

Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

Prostate cancer is most often discovered in the absence of any symptoms by prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening and, less commonly, by physical examination which involves a digital rectal exam (DRE), where a doctor feels the prostate through the rectum to find hard or lumpy areas.

Suspected prostate cancer can be confirmed only by a biopsy. Generally done in the doctor’s office with local anesthesia, a urologist removes tissue samples, usually with a needle. A pathologist then checks for cancer cells. Blood tests and imaging tests, such as a bone scan, CT scan or an MRI, can determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Prostate Cancer Prognosis

For most men with prostate cancer, the disease grows very slowly. The majority of men with low-grade, early prostate cancer live a long time after their diagnosis. Even without treatment, many will not die of prostate cancer, but rather will live with it until they eventually die of some other, unrelated cause. Nevertheless, more than 28,000 American men died from prostate cancer last year.

Learn about prostate cancer treatment