Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men. Most prostate cancers grow slowly, and don’t cause any health problems in men who have them.
A prostate specific antigen (PSA) test may find a prostate health problem, but treatment can cause serious side effects. Learn about prostate cancer and talk to your doctor before you decide to get tested or treated for prostate cancer.
Many men with prostate cancer—especially those with tumors that have not spread beyond the prostate—die of other causes without ever having any symptoms from the cancer.
Except for skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. It is the second most common cause of death from cancer among white, African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic men, and the fourth most common cause of death from cancer among Asian/Pacific Islander men.
Research has found risk factors that increase your chances of getting prostate cancer. These risk factors include—
Age: The older a man is, the greater his risk for getting prostate cancer.
Family history: Certain genes (the functional and physical units of heredity passed from parent to offspring) that you inherited from your parents may affect your prostate cancer risk. Currently, no single gene is sure to raise or lower your risk of getting prostate cancer. However, a man with a father, brother, or son who has had prostate cancer is two to three times more likely to develop the disease himself.
Different people have different symptoms for prostate cancer. Some men do not have symptoms at all. Some symptoms of prostate cancer are:
Difficulty starting urination
Weak or interrupted flow of urine
Frequent urination, especially at night
Difficulty emptying the bladder completely
Pain or burning during urination
Blood in the urine or semen
Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away
If you have any symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away. Keep in mind that these symptoms may be caused by conditions other than prostate cancer.
Two tests are commonly used to screen for prostate cancer.
Digital rectal exam (DRE): A doctor or nurse inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to estimate the size of the prostate and feel for lumps or other abnormalities.
Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test: Measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate. The levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer. The PSA level may also be elevated in other conditions that affect the prostate.
As a rule, the higher the PSA level in the blood, the more likely a prostate problem is present. But many factors, such as age and race, can affect PSA levels. Some prostate glands make more PSA than others. PSA levels also can be affected by:
Certain medical procedures.
An enlarged prostate.
A prostate infection.
Because many factors can affect PSA levels, your doctor is the best person to interpret your PSA test results. For more information, see your doctor or visit cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/index.htm.