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Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. There are approximately 192,280 new prostate cancers cases in the U.S. each year.

What Is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer is a malignant tumor of the prostate gland. The prostate is a walnut-sized organ located in front of a man's rectum and below the bladder.

Prostate cancer usually grows slowly, so chances for successful treatment increase if doctors catch the disease early. Your age and the stage of the cancer will help determine your treatment. For some men, doctors recommend active surveillance — closely monitoring the tumor — instead of treatment.

What Does the Prostate Do?

The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system. It produces some of the fluids in semen, which help keep sperm alive and healthy. The muscles in the prostate also help push semen out of the body when you ejaculate.

What Causes Prostate Cancer?

Factors that may increase prostate cancer risk:

  • Age — The risk for prostate cancer increases with age, with men over age 65 at highest risk.
  • Family history — Studies show that a man's risk for prostate cancer increases if a close male relative has the disease.
  • Race — African-American men are twice as likely to be diagnosed as white men.
  • Specific genetic changes — Researchers have found that changes in parts of certain chromosomes seem to be connected with an increased risk for prostate cancer.

What Are the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?

In the early stages, prostate cancer has few symptoms. Most men find out they have it through screening. Symptoms of later-stage disease may include:

  • Slow or weak urine stream
  • Having to urinate frequently, especially at night
  • Problems with erections
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Pain in the back, hips, or ribs
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs and feet
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Diagnosing Prostate Cancer

To diagnose prostate cancer, a doctor my perform a digital rectal exam and order a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. While these tests may indicate a problem with the prostate, a doctor will order a transrectal ultrasound and transrectal biopsy to confirm.

Other diagnostic tests may include:

  • X-rays
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans

Learn more about diagnostic tests used to diagnose and stage prostate and other urologic cancers:

Staging for prostate cancer

If your doctor diagnoses you with prostate cancer, they will run tests to see if the disease has spread, and how far. The main stages of prostate cancer are I through IV. The higher the stage, the more serious the cancer is.

  • Stage I: PSA levels are low. The cancer cells are only in the prostate and are slow-growing.
  • Stage II: PSA levels are medium or low. The cancer is small but has increased risk of spreading.
  • Stage III: PSA levels are high. The cancer is growing and is likely to spread outside the prostate.
  • Stage IV: The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

More Information about Prostate Cancer

Learn more about prostate cancer from the National Cancer Institute.

Contact Us About Prostate Cancer Care

To learn more about prostate cancer care or to make an appointment, you can:

prostate cancer exam

Screenings & Exams

Doctors may recommend a PSA blood test and a digital rectal exam if you have a family history of prostate cancer.

Learn more about screenings.
doctor showing results on tablet

Prostate Treatment Program

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center employs a multidisciplinary approach to treating prostate cancer that includes state-of-the-art, evidence-based treatment options. 

Learn more about our treatment program.
Husband and wife talking with healthcare provider

Treatments for Prostate Cancer

Our oncologists offer a full range of treatments, including traditional and minimally-invasive surgery, medical oncology options and radiation therapy.

Read more about treatment options.