Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers found in American men, second only to skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Prostate cancer develops mainly in older men and in African-American men. About 6 cases in 10 are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is rare before age 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer, but it is a highly treatable form of cancer. According to the ACS, only 1 on 41 men will die of prostate cancer, and there are more than 2.9 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point still alive today.

The key to beating prostate cancer is early detection.

What is Prostate Cancer?

The prostate, a walnut-sized gland found only in men, makes some of the fluid in semen. Cancer of the prostate occurs when cells in the gland grow abnormally, forming a tumor that can spread to nearby tissue and other parts of the body.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

In its early stages, prostate cancer often presents without symptoms, making it difficult to detect. However, prostate cancer may cause:

  • A frequent need to urinate, especially at night
  • Difficulty starting or stopping urination
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Difficulty maintaining an erection
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Pain or pressure in the rectum
  • Stiffness or pain in the lower back, hips or thighs

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please speak with a doctor as soon as possible.

Detecting Prostate Cancer

While prostate cancer is a serious disease, it is usually a slow-growing cancer, so early detection is critical to successful treatment outcomes.

These are some of the tests that may be used to confirm a diagnosis:

  • Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) – This blood test is used to assess the level of PSA in the blood. A higher-than-normal level of PSA might indicate problems with the prostate, including cancer.
  • Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) – For this exam, a physician inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for abnormalities of the prostate.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure in which a sample of tissue is taken from the prostate and then examined to check for abnormalities.
  • Prostate Health Index (PHI): Although its efficacy is still being studied, this new, more precise blood test may better distinguish an aggressive cancer from a low-risk cancer.

An abnormal age-adjusted prostate specific antigen (PSA) test or abnormal digital rectal (DRE) exam can be an indication of prostate cancer, but does not necessarily mean cancer is present. Abnormal findings should be followed by a biopsy of the prostate cells to determine if they are in fact cancerous. 

Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

Primary factors that may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer are:

  • Age — Prostate cancer is rare in men under 40, but becomes increasingly more prevalent after age 50.
  • Race/ethnicity — African-American men develop prostate cancer more than other men, but the reason for the disparity is unclear.
  • Geography — Prostate cancer is seen more in North America than in other regions but, as with the race/ethnicity disparity, scientists don’t yet know why.
  • Family history — Men whose brother(s) or father are diagnosed with prostate cancer have more than double the chance of developing the disease.