You may know that the prostate gland is only present in men, and that regular prostate exams can help your doctor diagnose cancer. But there’s a good chance that you don’t know everything there is to know about prostate cancer. Keep reading to learn more about this condition.

Men have a greater lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer than women have of developing breast cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among men in the United States. It’s the second most common cancer in men worldwide. The highest incidence of prostate cancer is seen in North America and Oceania. The lowest incidence of prostate cancer is seen in Asia and Africa.

Researchers don’t fully understand why some people get cancer and others don’t, but at least for some people, there seems to be a genetic link.

If you have a brother, father, or son with prostate cancer, you’re twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease. If you have two or more relatives with prostate cancer, your risk further increases. A family history of prostate cancer will also increase your risk for developing other types of cancers.

Though the reasons aren’t clear, a diet high in animal products, and low in fruits and vegetables, may increase your risk of developing prostate cancer. Recent research has also found that consuming high-fat dairy products may increase your risk. It may also increase your risk for developing more aggressive types of prostate cancer. More research is needed to better understand the link between diet and prostate cancer.

Early detection of prostate cancer is important, but it can be difficult. That’s because oftentimes, men don’t experience any symptoms in the early stages. Seeing your doctor to discuss prostate cancer screening will help to identify your risk of developing prostate cancer and the need for screening. Screening can include a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a blood test called prostate-specific antigen (PSA).

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a condition that causes the prostate to become enlarged. BPH isn’t related to prostate cancer. It also doesn’t increase your risk for developing cancer.

Early symptoms of prostate cancer can include:

  • difficulty urinating
  • blood in the urine or semen
  • painful urination and ejaculation
  • impotence
  • pain and stiffness in the back, hips, and thighs

Learn more: 10 early symptoms of prostate cancer in men »

Prostate cancer is most common in older men, and it’s quite rare in men younger than 40. But when younger men do get prostate cancer, it tends to be more aggressive, and they’re more likely to die from it than men who are diagnosed later.

Prostate cancer in the United States is most common in African-American and African-Caribbean men. They are also more likely to die from the disease. Asian-American and Hispanic or Latino men have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Researchers don’t fully understand these differences in incidence.

The digital rectal exam (DRE) involves a medical professional inserting their gloved finger into the rectum to physically examine the prostate for abnormalities. If any abnormalities are felt during the exam, a biopsy is needed to confirm cancer.

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test that’s used to identify levels of PSA in your blood. Elevated PSA may by a sign of prostate cancer. PSA levels can also be used to monitor prostate cancer after diagnosis. PSA isn’t specific to prostate cancer, however. That means that other conditions, like BPH and urinary tract or prostate infections, can also cause an abnormally elevated test.

A sample of the prostate tissue, obtained by a small needle or biopsy, may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. A specialist may decide whether obtaining imaging of the prostate using ultrasound, MRI, or CAT scan may be helpful in fully evaluating the disease.

As with other forms of cancer, doctors can take several different approaches to treating prostate cancer. Chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and hormone therapy are all treatment options. In some cases, monitoring is recommended, and treatment is only initiated if the cancer begins to grow.

Learn more: Prostate cancer treatments »

With early detection, the 5-year cure rate is close to 100 percent. That means that within 5 years of being successfully treated for prostate cancer, almost 100 percent of men remain prostate cancer-free.

Just a few decades ago, in the 1970s, only 69 percent of men diagnosed with local prostate cancer were cancer-free 5 years after diagnosis. An increase in prostate cancer screenings over the years has likely contributed to the increase is cure rates.

Talk to your doctor about prostate cancer screening. Men at higher risk may need to be screened more often. Screening can help with early detection, which can improve your outlook.