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Health Information Center

Prostate Cancer

  • Rebecca J. Stahl, MA
Publication Type:


Prostate Cancer

(Cancer of the Prostate; Prostatic Carcinoma)


Prostate cancer is a disease in which cancer starts in the prostate gland. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland in men. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine (pee) out of the body.

Most prostate cancers grow slowly, but some grow and spread fast.

Prostate Cancer.

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Cancer happens when cells in the body divide without control or order. If cells keep dividing, a mass of tissue forms. These are called growths or tumors. If a tumor is cancer it is called malignant. Tumors can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body.

The exact cause of prostate cancer is unknown. It is likely due to genes and the environment.

Risk Factors

Prostate cancer is more common in men who are aged 65 and older. It is also more common in people who are Black. Other things that raise the risk are:

  • Family members with prostate cancer—especially in a father or brother
  • Obesity
  • A high-fat diet
  • Certain gene changes
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, such as Agent Orange


Early prostate cancer often does not cause symptoms. When symptoms happen, they may be:

  • Problems with urination, such as:
    • Urinating (peeing) often, especially at night
    • Problems starting urination
    • Not being able to urinate
    • Weak or interrupted urine flow
    • Painful or burning urination
  • Problems having an erection
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs

These symptoms may also be caused by other conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or an infection. People with these symptoms should see a doctor right away.


Many prostate cancers are found through prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening. It can find cancer before symptoms start.

Prostate cancer may also be found after symptoms start. The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical and rectal exam will be done. The doctor can feel an enlarged prostate through the wall of the rectum. Blood and urine tests may be done to rule out other things that cause increased prostate size.

A sample of the prostate will be removed and tested with a biopsy. This will confirm cancer. Images of the prostate and area can show the size of the growth. Tests may include:

  • Transrectal ultrasound
  • Pelvic MRI scan
  • Abdominal and pelvic CT scan
  • Prostate–specific membrane antigen based PET/CT scan (PSMA PET/CT)

Test results will be used to find details of the cancer. This includes the type, stage, and grade of the cancer. Staging is used to guide treatment. Prostate cancer is staged from 1 to 4. Stage 1 cancer has only affected nearby tissue. Stage 4 cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Grading shows ow fast the cancer is likely to grow and spread.


Treatment varies depending on the stage and grade of prostate cancer. Treatment may include:


To help reduce the risk of prostate cancer:

  • Eat a healthful diet that is:
    • High in fruits, vegetables, and fish, and
    • Low in red meat

Watchful Waiting

Early stage cancer may not cause problems. Some cancer is also slow growing and may not need treatment right away. The prostate will be monitored over time. This may also be done for people who are older and less healthy. The doctor will do tests or other follow up appointments.




  • Prostate cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer.html.
  • Prostate cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/prostate-cancer.
  • Prostate cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/prevention/prostate-cancer-screening.
  • Prostate cancer diagnosis and staging. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/evaluation/prostate-cancer-diagnosis-and-staging.
  • Schaeffer E, Srinivas S, Antonarakis ES, et al. Prostate Cancer. Version 3. 2020. In: National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines). NCCN 2020 Nov 17 from NCCN website.


  • Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.