Prostate Cancer FAQs
Reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
- What is prostate cancer?
- What are the risk factors for developing prostate cancer?
- What are common signs and symptoms of prostate cancer?
- How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
- What percentage of prostate cancer diagnoses are made early?
- True or false: Doctors recommend regular PSA testing for prostate cancer.
- How is prostate cancer treated?
- Survival rates for those diagnosed with prostate cancer have improved. True or false?
- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. True or false?
- Improve your Health I.Q. on Prostate Cancer
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Q:What is prostate cancer?
A:The prostate gland is a walnut-sized gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum and it makes some of the fluid that is part of semen. Prostate cancer occurs when cells grow out of control in the prostate gland.
Q:What are the risk factors for developing prostate cancer?
A:The primary risk factor for prostate cancer is age over 65 years.
About 60% of all cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in men 65 and older, and the average age of diagnosis is 66. Other risk factors for prostate cancer include ethnicity (African-American men and Caribbean men are diagnosed more often than men of other races), family history, and certain genes. Smoking does not increase one's risk of getting prostate cancer, but some studies have found that it may increase the chances of dying from prostate cancer.
Q:What are common signs and symptoms of prostate cancer?
A:Many men may have no symptoms of prostate cancer, which is why screening is important. If there are symptoms, they may include:
Many men may have no symptoms of prostate cancer, which is why screening is important. If there are symptoms, they may include:
- Urinary frequency or urgency
- Painful urination
- Weak or interrupted urination
- Difficulty starting urination or holding back urination
- Trouble having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Decreased ejaculate amounts
- Blood in the urine or semen
Q:How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
A:Prostate cancer is diagnosed with both a blood test and a physical examination.
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures PSA levels in the blood. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate and high levels in the blood may indicate prostate cancer. Part of the physical exam involves a digital rectal examination (DRE), in which a doctor inserts a finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland. If the doctor detects a lump, that may indicate prostate cancer. If either the PSA test or the DRE is abnormal, a biopsy may be ordered to confirm a diagnosis.
Q:What percentage of prostate cancer diagnoses are made early?
A:Due to the widespread implementation of PSA screening in the United States, more than 90% of all cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed early.
Q:True or false: Doctors recommend regular PSA testing for prostate cancer.
While PSA tests help diagnose prostate cancer by measuring prostate-specific antigen levels in the blood, routine screenings are often not recommended as false-positives can occur.
American Cancer Society Guidelines recommend men talk to their doctors about PSA screening at the following ages:
- Age 50 for men at average risk who are expected to live at least 10 more years
- Age 45 for men who have risk factors for developing prostate cancer
- Age 40 for men at very high risk (men with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age)
Q:How is prostate cancer treated?
A:Treatment for prostate cancer depends on the stage of the cancer.
- Stage 1: Cancer is localized to the prostate and men have no symptoms. “Active surveillance” is recommended in which the cancer is monitored closely and treatment is only started once changes are observed.
- Stage 2: Cancer is localized to the prostate but is larger and PSA scores are higher. Active surveillance, removal of the prostate and surrounding tissue (radical prostatectomy), and radiation therapy are treatment options.
- Stage 3: Cancer has grown outside the prostate but has not spread. Treatment for this stage may include radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or radical prostatectomy followed by radiation therapy.
- Stage 4: Cancer has spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes. Most stage 4 cancers are not curable, but may be treatable, with all the methods for other stages. Medications and clinical trials may also be recommended.
Q:Survival rates for those diagnosed with prostate cancer have improved. True or false?
Prostate cancer survival rates have improved over the years. Today, there are an estimated 24 deaths per 100,000 diagnosed cases, down from 39 deaths per 100,000 patients in the years 1991-1994.
Q:Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. True or false?
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in men. Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer, and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in men.
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