Prostate Cancer Facts
Prostate cancer starts in the prostate, the male sex gland located below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The prostate is about the size of a walnut, and it makes and stores seminal fluid—a milky liquid that nourishes sperm.
The prostate surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. If the prostate grows too large, it can block the flow of urine.
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men in the United States. In fact, prostate cancer accounts for more than 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed in American men.
All prostate cancers are not the same. In some men, the disease is very aggressive and requires treatment. In others, however, it is a slow-growing disease that is unlikely to cause serious problems.
The incidence of prostate cancer has nearly doubled over the past 20 years. One possible reason is that, due to the decline in deaths from heart disease, more men are living longer, reaching ages at which the risk of prostate cancer is highest. More than 75 percent of prostate tumors are found in men over age 65.
Many men also develop a non-cancerous condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlargement of the prostate. This can cause symptoms similar to prostate cancer, including difficulties with urination.
Until the latter part of the 20th century, many physicians considered prostate cancer to be just part of the normal aging process, and the disease was largely ignored. This has changed in recent years. There are new and better treatments for prostate cancer, and men in their 70s and 80s who have or have had prostate cancer are leading active and productive lives.
Many men do not notice any symptoms before they are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Other men may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Urinating often (especially at night)
- Difficulty urinating
- Pain or burning during urination
- Difficulty in having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
- Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thigh
Many of these symptoms are also seen with BPH. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call your doctor.
Learn about the tests used to diagnose prostate cancer.
Here are helpful definitions of terms you may hear during your evaluation and treatment.