Prostate cancer

What is prostate cancer?

The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that makes and stores a component of semen. A healthy prostate is about the size of a walnut. Prostate cancer forms in the tissues of the prostate.

Prostate cancer is the second most common malignancy in American men. In most men with prostate cancer, the disease grows slowly.

Who is at risk?

More than 70 percent of men diagnosed with this disease are over age 65. African-American men have a substantially higher risk of prostate cancer than white men and Hispanic men.

There is some evidence that dietary factors are involved, such as eating a diet high in animal fat. Genetics also may be a risk factor.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer often does not cause symptoms for many years. By the time symptoms occur, the disease may have spread beyond the prostate.

When symptoms occur, they may include:

  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Difficulty getting an erection
  • Frequent pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs
  • Urinary problems, including the inability to urinate, difficulty starting or stopping urine flow, frequency (especially at night), pain or burning during urination or weak urine flow

These symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have prostate cancer. Benign prostate hypertrophy also can cause these symptoms. It’s important to check with your doctor to rule out cancer or diagnose it early when it’s easier to treat.

Early detection of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer usually can be found in its early stages by having regular prostate-specific antigen blood tests and digital rectal exams. Talk to your doctor about what screening is right for you and when to start regular screenings.

Visit the National Cancer Institute at for information about prostate cancer symptoms, screenings and treatment.
Us TOO is an organization started in 1990 by prostate cancer survivors to provide education and support programs for men with prostate cancer and their loved ones. This organization is an active advocate for patients. Contact them at or at their toll-free patient support line at (800) 80-Us TOO (800-808-7866).

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