Prostate cancer is an abnormal growth of cancerous cells that begins in a man's prostate. It is the second most common cancer in men in the U.S. but one with a generally good prognosis because it grows slowly and usually remains confined to the prostate gland. The prostate is a small gland that contributes fluids to sperm to form semen. It is located just below the bladder. Because women do not have a prostate, they cannot get prostate cancer.

The National Cancer Institute estimates there will be nearly 218,000 new cases of prostate cancer and more than 32,000 prostate cancer-related deaths by the end of 2010.

Prostate Cancer Symptoms

Prostate cancer is usually asymptomatic, meaning it shows few or no symptoms in the early stages. However, because of the way that the prostate wraps around the urethra and its proximity to the rectum, it can cause urinary, excretory, and sexual problems similar to a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Urinary problems are often associated with prostate cancer. Urinary symptoms include:

  • difficulty stopping or starting the flow of urine
  • weak or interrupted urine flow
  • urgent needs to urinate
  • urine leakage
  • blood in the urine
  • pain during urination or bowel movements

However there are several other prostate cancer symptoms not related to urination. These include:

  • back pain
  • erection difficulties
  • painful ejaculation
  • swelling or frequent pain in the legs
  • bone pain
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • unexplained weight loss
  • nausea

Are You at Risk?

While there is no known cause of prostate cancer, research has found certain factors that can increase prostate cancer risk:

  • genetics
  • use of drugs that reduce endogenous androgen (hormones, such as testosterone) production
  • exposure to the chemicals cadmium, chlorine, and methyl bromide

The most significant risk factor of prostate cancer is age. Men younger than 45 rarely have prostate cancer, while diagnoses are most common in men older than 70. Other risk factors include:

  • a diet high in red meat and high-fat dairy products and low in fruits and vegetables 
  • obesity
  • certain cell abnormalities


Prostate cancer is diagnosed using several tests such as a digital rectal exam, a prostate-specific antigen blood test, or a biopsy.

Like other cancers, prostate cancer is treated with a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and, occasionally, chemotherapy. Immunotherapy and high-intensity focused ultrasounds are the latest in prostate cancer-fighting treatments.

Because prostate cancer generally grows slowly and usually remains confined to the prostate, patients have a relatively positive prognosis. The five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent, the 10-year survival rate is 91 percent, and the 15-year survival rate is 76 percent. And because methods of detection and treatment options continue to improve, prostate cancer is being discovered earlier and treated more effectively. 

Visit the Prostate Cancer Learning Center to learn more.