Prostate cancer - At a glance

This page offers an overview of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. Use the menu on the left-hand side to discover more detail.

The prostate:

  • Is a walnut-sized glandAn organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. that surrounds the urethra in men
  • Naturally increases in size as men get older
  • Produces a liquid that nourishes and carries sperm.

Prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.:

  • Is the most common male cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.
  • Affects around one in 14 men
  • Is the second leading cause of death in men
  • Becomes more likely as a man gets older. Many people think that prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is only a disease of old age but it can affect men from their 40s onwards
  • Is most common in men of African descent. It is least common in men of Asian origin
  • Is associated with diets high in animal fatOne of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. and low in fruit and vegetables.

More detail about what the prostate and prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. are. More detail on risk factors and prevention.

Symptoms and signs:

Sometimes prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. doesn't cause any symptoms. When it does cause symptoms, these may include:

  • Needing to urinate more often than usual, especially at night
  • A sense of urgency in needing to urinate, sometimes leaking urine
  • Difficulty in starting to urinate
  • Straining to urinate or taking a long time to finish
  • A weak flow of urine
  • Feeling that you have not emptied the bladderThe organ that stores urine. fully
  • Pain when passing urine or during ejaculationThe discharge of semen from a man’s penis at the time of sexual climax.
  • New pain in the testicles, lower back, hips or pelvis
  • Problems getting or keeping an erectionThe enlarged, rigid state of the penis during sexual arousal.
  • Blood in the urine or semen.

More detail on symptoms.

Tests and diagnosis:

First there is an assessment of the symptoms you describe, and a physical examination by the doctor. This includes a digital rectal examination (DREDigital rectal examination, physical examination that involves inserting a finger into the patient’s rectum, their back passage.) of the prostate glandAn organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. - feeling the prostate glandAn organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. from inside the rectum with a gloved finger. After these initial tests, recommended further tests may include:

  • A urine test - to rule out infectionInvasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites.
  • A bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. test - to measure prostate specific antigenA substance that prompts the immune system to fight infection with antibodies. (PSA)
  • A urine flow test - to measure the volume and speed of urine flow
  • An ultrasound scan The process of using high-frequency sound waves to produce internal images of the body. - to check how much urine the bladderThe organ that stores urine. holds and whether it empties properly.
  • PCA3 test, a new geneThe basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes.-based urine test
  • A transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) with biopsyThe removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself. - to help diagnose prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and guide treatment decisions.

If a diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have. of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is made, the following tests will help to work out the stage of the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. - the size of the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and how far it has spread in the body - and so guide further treatment:

  • CTA scan that generates a series of cross-sectional X-ray images. scan
  • MRIAn abbreviation for magnetic resonance imaging, a technique for imaging the body that uses electromagnetic waves and a strong magnetic field. scan
  • X-rays
  • Bone scan.

Debate (HT) continues as to the merits of national screening programmes because of the varying reliability of the existing primary diagnostic tests.

More detail on tests and diagnosis.

Choosing treatments:

The choice of treatment is influenced by:

  • Your age and health
  • How far the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has spread
  • Possible side-effects
  • Your preference.

Treatment options include:

  • Active surveillance - for low-risk, slow-growing prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. when treatment is not needed
  • Nurtritional therapy - may help to slow the growth of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.
  • Surgery (prostatectomy, radical prostatectomyThe surgical removal of the entire prostate gland.) - removal of part or all of the prostate glandAn organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. through open, laparoscopic and robotic procedures
  • Radiotherapy (external beam, conformal, brachytherapyA type of radiotherapy where radioactive pellets or wires are inserted into the tumour.) - radiation to destroy cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells and to stop the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. spreading
  • High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFUAn abbreviation for high intensity focused ultrasound, a relatively new method for treating cancer using focused ultrasound waves.) - ultrasound energy heats and destroys cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells
  • Cryotherapy - freezes and destroys cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells
  • Hormone therapy - reduces the amount of testosterone in the body so that tumour growth slows down
  • Chemotherapy - drugs to kill cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. cells or make them less active
  • Bone-targeted therapies - delay or prevent symptoms arising from the spread of cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. to the bones.

Possible side-effects of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and its treatment include:

More detail on treatments.

Outlook:

The outlook (or 'prognosis') for a man diagnosed with prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. varies greatly and is affected by many factors, including:

  • PSA level
  • Grade of the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., which helps to assess how quickly the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. will develop, using the GleasonA system used to assess the extent of abnormality of prostate cancer cells. system
  • Stage of the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. based on the size of the tumour and whether it has spread elsewhere in the body
  • Age
  • Race
  • Medical history.

Every man responds differently to prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. and its treatment and an accurate prognosis can only be assessed by taking all these factors into account.

More detail on factors affecting outlook.

Living with prostate cancer:

Life after a diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have. of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. can present some unique challenges, though men can lead active and fulfilling lives during as well as after prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

Some men find lifestyle changes, such as dietary adjustments, can help with adapting to life after prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

More detail about living with prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

On the horizon:

  • There are many new developments in screening and treatment options around the globe
  • Clinical trials invite patient participation to help with new research
  • This continuing research is a crucial part in the fight against prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

More detail on new developments.