Prostate Problem Warning Signs (cont.)

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is common among American men. Your chance of getting prostate cancer may be affected by your:

  • Age. Men age 50 and older run a greater risk.
  • Race. Prostate cancer is most common among African-American men.
  • Family history. If your father or brother has had prostate cancer, you are more likely to have it, too.
  • Diet. Eating high-fat food with few fruits and vegetables may raise your risk.

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

At the start, prostate cancer does not cause symptoms. As the cancer grows, you may have trouble urinating. Some men need to urinate often, especially at night. Others have pain or burning during urination, blood in the urine or semen, pain in the back, hips, or pelvis, and painful ejaculation.

To find out if these symptoms are caused by prostate cancer, your doctor will ask about your past medical problems and your family's medical history. He or she will perform a physical exam. During the exam, your doctor will put a gloved finger into your rectum to feel your prostate for hard or lumpy areas.

Your doctor may also do a blood test to check the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level. PSA levels can be high in men with an enlarged prostate gland or with prostate cancer. You may also need an ultrasound exam that takes computer pictures of the prostate.

If tests show that you might have cancer, your doctor will want to confirm this with a biopsy. He or she will take out tiny pieces of the prostate to look for cancer cells. Your doctor may want to do a biopsy again to re-check the results.

How is prostate cancer treated?

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Treatment for prostate cancer depends on whether cancer is in part or all of the prostate or if it has spread to other parts of the body. It also depends on your age and overall health. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment choice for you. You may want to ask another doctor for a second opinion.

For cancer that has not spread from the prostate to other parts of the body, your doctor may suggest:

  • Watchful Waiting or Active Surveillance. If the cancer is growing slowly and not causing problems, you may decide not to treat it right away. Instead, your doctor will check regularly for changes in your condition.
  • Surgery. The most common type of surgery removes the whole prostate and some nearby tissue. As with any surgery, there are risks. Talk to your doctor about problems that may result from surgery.
  • Radiation Therapy. This treatment uses radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. The radiation may come from an x-ray machine or from tiny radioactive seeds placed inside or near the tumor. Talk with your doctor about possible side effects.
  • Hormone Therapy. Men having other treatments like radiation therapy may also be treated with drugs to stop the body from making testosterone. This is done if it seems likely that the cancer will come back. Hormone therapy can also be used for prostate cancer that has spread beyond the prostate.

Get more details on treatment choices for prostate cancer by calling the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-422-6237. Or, visit their website at www.cancer.gov/prostate.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/6/2014

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Prostate Problems - Type Question: Do you have an enlarged prostate, prostate cancer, prostatitis, or some other type of prostate problem?
Prostate Problems - Signs Question: What prostate problem signs do you experience?
Prostate Problems - PSA Test Question: Have you had a PSA test as part of the workup for your prostate problem?
Prostate Problems - Diagnosis Question: Please describe your diagnosis experience with prostate problems.
Prostate Problems - Treatment Question: What kind of treatment did you have for your prostate problem?