Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers among men.

Prostate cancer is most successfully treated when found early. Ninety-one percent of all prostate cancers are discovered while they are either localized (confined to the prostate) or regional (nearby).

The five-year survival rate for men diagnosed with prostate tumors found at these stages is 99 percent. In the past 20 years, the five-year survival rate for all stages combined has increased from 67 percent to 99 percent.

Signs and Symptoms

There are usually no specific signs or symptoms of early prostate cancer. A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE) can provide the best chance of finding prostate cancer in its earliest stages. But these tests can have drawbacks. The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society suggest that men older than age 50 talk with their doctor about prostate cancer screening. In addition to an annual physical exam, your doctor may recommend a DRE or PSA test. Men in high-risk groups should consult their doctors about being tested at an earlier age.

Prostate Cancer Symptoms

  • A need to urinate often, especially at night
  • Weak or interrupted urine flow
  • Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine (urgency)
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Inability to urinate
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in your urine or semen
  • Pain or stiffness in your lower back, hips, or upper thighs
  • Loss of ability to have an erection

The symptoms of prostate cancer may resemble other conditions or medical problems, such as an enlarged prostate gland. As a man gets older, his prostate may grow bigger and obstruct the flow of urine, or interfere with sexual function. An enlarged prostate gland may require treatment with medicine or surgery. This common benign prostate condition, which is not cancer, can cause many of the same symptoms as prostate cancer. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Risk Factors

In general, all men are at risk for prostate cancer. But specific risk factors increase the likelihood that certain men will develop the disease, including being older than age 65, being African-American, eating a high-fat diet, being obese, having a vasectomy or sexually transmitted disease, and having a family history of prostate cancer.

If the results of a DRE or PSA test are unusual, your doctor may repeat the tests or request an ultrasound and other procedures. These evaluation tools may include:

  • Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS): a test using sound wave echoes to create an image of the prostate gland to visually inspect for abnormal conditions such as gland enlargement or nodules.

  • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan): a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

  • Radionuclide bone scan: a nuclear imaging method that helps to show whether the cancer has spread from the prostate gland to the bones.

  • Lymph node and/or prostate biopsy: a procedure in which tissue samples are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present.


The diagnosis of cancer is confirmed only by a biopsy. There are many different treatments for prostate cancer, including expectant therapy, surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Expectant therapy is to "watch and wait" while carefully observing and monitoring the prostate cancer. Your doctor may recommend this if the prostate cancer is in a very early stage.

Medical Reviewer: [Alteri, Rick MD, Foster, Sara M. RN, MPH] Last Annual Review Date: 2009-07-19T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: © 2000-2010 The StayWell Company, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test is the standard, routine screening test for prostate cancer.