Prostate Cancer



Cancer happens when cells in the body divide without control or order. If cells keep dividing, a mass of tissue forms. These are called growths or tumors. If a tumor is cancer it is called malignant. Tumors can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body.

The exact cause of prostate cancer is unknown. It is likely due to genes and the environment.

Risk Factors

Prostate cancer is more common in men who are aged 65 and older. It is also more common in people who are Black. Other things that raise the risk are:

  • Family members with prostate cancer—especially in a father or brother
  • Obesity
  • A high-fat diet
  • Certain gene changes
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, such as Agent Orange



Early prostate cancer often does not cause symptoms. When symptoms happen, they may be:

  • Problems with urination, such as:
  • Urinating (peeing) often, especially at night
  • Problems starting urination
  • Not being able to urinate
  • Weak or interrupted urine flow
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Problems having an erection
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs

These symptoms may also be caused by other conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia(BPH) or an infection. People with these symptoms should see a doctor right away.


Many prostate cancers are found through prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening. It can find cancer before symptoms start.

Prostate cancer may also be found after symptoms start. The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical and rectal exam will be done. The doctor can feel an enlarged prostate through the wall of the rectum. Blood and urine tests may be done to rule out other things that cause increased prostate size.

A sample of the prostate will be removed and tested with a biopsy. This will confirm cancer. Images of the prostate and area can show the size of the growth. Tests may include:

  • Transrectal ultrasound
  • Pelvic MRI scan
  • Abdominal and pelvic CT scan
  • Prostate–specific membrane antigen based PET/CT scan (PSMA PET/CT)

Test results will be used to find details of the cancer. This includes the type, stage, and grade of the cancer. Staging is used to guide treatment. Prostate cancer is staged from 1 to 4. Stage 1 cancer has only affected nearby tissue. Stage 4 cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Grading shows ow fast the cancer is likely to grow and spread.



Treatment varies depending on the stage and grade of prostate cancer. Treatment may include:

Watchful Waiting


Types of surgery that may be needed include:

Side effects of prostate cancer surgery may be erectile dysfunction, problems controlling urine flow or stool (poop). Surgery methods may help reduce these risks for some. They may include:

  • Nerve-sparing surgery
  • Robotic surgery
  • Laparoscopic surgery

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy can kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Examples are:

  • Conformal radiation therapy— saves nearby tissue from the harmful effects of radiation.
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)—delivers higher doses of radiation to the tumor and lower doses to nearby tissues.
  • Radiopharmaceuticals—drugs with radioactivity are injected into a vein to:
  • Treat proteins on prostate cancer cells, or
  • Target cancer spread to bones

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy may be used if prostate cancer has spread—or returned after being treated. The goal is to lower the levels of male hormones called androgens. The main androgen is testosterone. Lowering androgen levels can cause prostate cancer to shrink or slow its growth.

Orchiectomy is surgery to remove the testicles. It may be done to help control hormones. The testicles makes androgens.

Other Treatment Options

Other options may include:

  • Cryosurgery—Cancer cells are frozen and destroyed. It may be used for low risk, early stage cancer for those who cannot have surgery or radiation.
  • Immunotherapy—These drugs build the immune system to help fight cancer cells. They may include a vaccine or injection.
  • Targeted therapies—Attack cancer cells and help spare healthy cells.
  • High-intensity focused ultrasound—A probe inserted through the rectum destroys cancer cells with ultrasound energy.
  • Chemotherapy (chemo)—Mainly used to ease symptoms in cancer that has spread outside the prostate. Chemo may also be helpful with hormone therapy.


To help reduce the risk of prostate cancer:

  • Eat a healthful diet that is:
  • High in fruits, vegetables, and fish, and
  • Low in red meat

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.