Prostate Cancer

What do I need to know about prostate cancer?

The prostate is the male sex gland that helps make semen. It is about the size of a walnut and wraps around the urethra and the neck of the bladder. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the end of the penis. In most cases, prostate cancer is slow growing.


What increases my risk for prostate cancer?

The cause of prostate cancer is not known. The following may increase your risk:

  • You are older than 50 years.

  • You are African-American.

  • You have a father or brother with prostate cancer.

  • You regularly eat fried foods, or high-fat foods such as fatty pork or beef dishes.

  • You do not eat many fruits or vegetables.

  • You were exposed to high amounts of certain chemicals, such as in cigarette smoke, alkaline batteries, or welding materials.

  • You have had a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

What are the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer?

You may have no symptoms at all during the early stages of prostate cancer. In the later stages, you may have one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Trouble starting or stopping the flow of urine

  • Feeling the need to urinate often, especially at night

  • Pain or a burning feeling when you urinate or ejaculate semen

  • Trouble having an erection

  • Blood in your urine or semen

  • Not being able to urinate at all

  • Pain or stiffness in your lower back, hips, or upper thighs

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

You may need more than one of the following tests:

  • Digital rectal examination (DRE): This is a test to check the size and shape of your prostate. Your healthcare provider will carefully insert a gloved finger in to your rectum to feel if it is large, firm, or has lumps.

  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test: This is a blood test to check PSA levels. These levels may be increased in prostate cancer.

  • Prostate biopsy: A needle is used to take a sample of tissue from your prostate gland. The sample can show if you have cancer. It can also help healthcare providers determine the stage of your cancer.

How is prostate cancer treated?

If you have early stage cancer, your healthcare provider may recommend that you have frequent tests and regular follow-up visits to watch for changes. You also may need any of the following:

  • Hormone therapy: This medicine is used to decrease testosterone (male hormone) levels. Take as directed.

  • Radiation therapy: High energy beams of x-rays are used to kill cancer cells. You may receive radiation therapy from outside your body. You may also be treated with small beads or rods placed inside your prostate.

  • Surgery: You may need surgery depending on the stage of the cancer. Part or all of your prostate may be removed. You may also need to have some lymph nodes taken out. This may help keep the cancer from spreading to other parts of your body.

What are the risks of prostate cancer?

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection after surgery. You could also develop bowel, sex, or urinary problems. After surgery, you may get a blood clot in your leg. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. If untreated, prostate cancer can spread to other parts of your body. These may lead to other serious or life-threatening conditions.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.

  • You feel you cannot cope with your illness.

  • You have blood in your urine or have trouble urinating.

  • You have pain that does not decrease or go away after you take your medicine.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have a blocked catheter or a problem with your catheter.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.

  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.

  • Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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