Prostate Cancer

What Is Prostate Cancer, Symptoms, Causes, Tests for Prostate Cancer, Treatment

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the prostate gland, which is a small walnut-shaped organ located just below the bladder in men. The prostate gland produces some of the fluid that makes up semen, the fluid that carries sperm during ejaculation.


What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum, surrounding the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine and semen out of the body. The primary function of the prostate gland is to produce and secrete some of the fluid that makes up semen.


Symptoms of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer often does not cause symptoms in its early stages. However, as the disease progresses, some men may experience symptoms. These symptoms can also be associated with non-cancerous conditions, so experiencing them does not necessarily mean you have prostate cancer. Regular check-ups and screenings are crucial for early detection. Symptoms of prostate cancer may include:

Urinary problems:

Frequent urination: You may notice an increased need to urinate, especially at night.

Difficulty starting or stopping urination: Weak or interrupted urine flow can be a symptom.

Blood in the urine or semen:

Blood in the urine (hematuria) or semen can be a sign, although it is more commonly associated with benign conditions.

Erectile dysfunction:

Difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection may occur in some cases.

Pain and discomfort:

Pain or discomfort in the pelvic area, lower back, or upper thighs may be experienced.

Bone pain:

Advanced prostate cancer can spread to the bones, causing bone pain, especially in the hips, spine, and pelvis.

Weight loss and fatigue:

Unexplained weight loss and fatigue may be symptoms of advanced prostate cancer.

Trouble controlling bowel movements:

In some cases, prostate cancer may spread to the rectum and cause problems with bowel movements.



Age: Prostate cancer is more common in older men. The risk increases with age, and the majority of cases are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.

Family history: A family history of prostate cancer increases the risk. If a man has a father or brother with prostate cancer, his risk is higher compared to the general population.

Genetics: Certain inherited gene mutations, such as those in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, have been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer. These genes are more commonly associated with breast and ovarian cancers but can also impact prostate cancer risk.

Race and ethnicity: Prostate cancer is more prevalent in African American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry compared to men of other racial and ethnic groups. Asian American and Hispanic/Latino men have a lower risk.

Geography: Prostate cancer rates vary geographically, with higher incidence rates observed in North America, Northwestern Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean.

Diet: Some studies suggest that diets high in red meat and high-fat dairy products and low in fruits and vegetables may be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. However, the evidence is not conclusive, and further research is needed.

Obesity: Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of aggressive forms of prostate cancer. It may also impact the progression of the disease and the effectiveness of treatment.

Hormones: The male hormone testosterone and its byproduct, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), are thought to play a role in the development of prostate cancer.


Tests for prostate cancer

There are several tests and procedures used to detect and diagnose prostate cancer. The decision to undergo these tests should be made in consultation with a healthcare professional, who can assess an individual’s risk factors and determine the appropriate course of action. Common tests for prostate cancer include:

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test:

This blood test measures the level of PSA, a protein produced by the prostate gland, in the bloodstream. Elevated PSA levels can be an indicator of prostate issues, including cancer. However, a high PSA level does not necessarily indicate cancer, and other conditions like benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) can also cause PSA elevation.

Digital rectal exam (DRE):

In a DRE, a healthcare provider inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland. Changes in the size, shape, or texture of the prostate may be an indication of potential issues, including cancer.

Prostate biopsy:

If the PSA level is elevated or if abnormalities are detected during a DRE, a prostate biopsy may be recommended.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging):

MRI scans of the prostate can provide detailed images of the gland and surrounding tissues. It is often used to assess the extent of cancer within the prostate and to guide biopsy procedures.

Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS):

This test involves the use of ultrasound to create images of the prostate gland. It is sometimes used to guide the biopsy needle during a prostate biopsy.

PCA3 test:

The Prostate Cancer Antigen 3 (PCA3) test is a urine test that measures the level of a specific gene associated with prostate cancer. It may be used in conjunction with other tests to help determine the need for a biopsy.


Treating prostate cancer

Active surveillance (watchful waiting):

For low-risk and slow-growing prostate cancers, especially in older individuals, doctors may recommend active surveillance. This involves closely monitoring the cancer through regular check-ups, PSA tests, and other diagnostic procedures, but not actively treating it unless there is evidence of progression.


Surgical removal of the prostate gland, known as a radical prostatectomy, is a common treatment for localized prostate cancer. This procedure can be performed through traditional open surgery or minimally invasive techniques, such as laparoscopic or robotic-assisted surgery.

Radiation therapy:

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells or stop their growth. It can be delivered externally using a machine outside the body (external beam radiation) or internally by placing radioactive materials directly into or near the tumor (brachytherapy).

Hormone therapy (Androgen deprivation therapy - ADT):

Prostate cancer growth is often driven by male hormones (androgens), such as testosterone. Hormone therapy aims to lower androgen levels or block their effects, slowing down the growth of prostate cancer. This treatment is often used in advanced or metastatic cases.


Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to kill rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells. It is typically used in advanced prostate cancer that has spread beyond the prostate and is not responding to hormone therapy.


Immunotherapy stimulates the body's immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. Some immunotherapies have shown promise in treating advanced prostate cancer.

Targeted therapy:

Targeted therapy involves drugs that specifically target certain molecules involved in cancer cell growth. These drugs may be used in combination with other treatments, particularly in advanced cases.


Cryotherapy involves freezing the prostate tissue to destroy cancer cells. It is a less common treatment option and may be considered for some localized cases.


Living with prostate cancer

Living with prostate cancer involves coping with the physical, emotional, and practical aspects of the disease. Here are some considerations and strategies for individuals facing a prostate cancer diagnosis:

Education and understanding: Learn about prostate cancer, its stages, and treatment options. Understanding the disease can empower you to make informed decisions about your care. Your healthcare team is an excellent resource for information.

Open communication: Maintain open and honest communication with your healthcare team. Discuss your concerns, ask questions, and actively participate in decision-making regarding your treatment plan.

Support system: Build a strong support system that may include family, friends, and healthcare professionals. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with others can provide emotional support during the challenging times.

Counseling and support groups: Consider joining a support group or seeking counseling. Connecting with others who have faced or are facing similar challenges can be reassuring and provide valuable insights. Professional counseling can help you cope with emotional and psychological aspects of the diagnosis.

Healthy lifestyle: Adopt a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet. Physical activity can help manage treatment side effects, improve mood, and enhance overall well-being.

Managing side effects: Understand and manage the potential side effects of treatment. Discuss any concerns with your healthcare team, as there are often strategies and medications to address side effects such as fatigue, pain, and changes in sexual function.

Regular check-ups: Attend scheduled follow-up appointments to monitor your health and assess the effectiveness of treatment. Regular check-ups are essential even if you are on active surveillance or watchful waiting.

Emotional well-being: Prioritize your emotional well-being. Consider activities such as meditation, yoga, or other stress-reducing techniques to help manage the emotional impact of the diagnosis.

Advocacy and empowerment: Advocate for yourself in the healthcare system. Be proactive in seeking information, asking questions, and ensuring that your preferences are considered in your treatment plan.

Maintain normalcy: Try to maintain a sense of normalcy in your daily life. Continue to engage in activities you enjoy and stay connected with your social circle.


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