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The Basics

Written by the doctors and editors at UpToDate  
What is prostate cancer? — Prostate cancer happens when normal cells in the prostate gland change into abnormal cells and grow out of control. The prostate gland makes fluid that is part of semen. This gland sits below the bladder and in front of the rectum, and forms a ring around the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body (figure 1). 
Prostate cancer occurs most often in men older than 50. Although prostate cancer is very common, most men do not die from it. This is because prostate cancer usually grows very slowly.  
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer? — Prostate cancer often causes no symptoms at first. But if symptoms do occur, they can include: 
●Needing to urinate more often than usual 
●A urine stream that is slower than usual 
●Trouble having an erection 
●Blood in the urine or semen 
These symptoms can also be caused by conditions that are not prostate cancer. But if you have these symptoms, you should let your doctor or nurse know. 
Is there a test for prostate cancer? — Yes. Doctors use a blood test called a PSA test and an exam called a rectal exam to check for prostate cancer. In a rectal exam, your doctor or nurse puts a finger in your anus and up into your rectum. He or she presses on the rectum wall to feel for abnormal areas on the prostate (figure 2). 
If your doctor or nurse suspects you have prostate cancer, he or she will follow up with one or more tests. These can include: 
●Biopsy – A doctor will take a small sample of tissue from the prostate. Then another doctor will look at the sample under a microscope to see if it has cancer. 
●Ultrasound, MRI scan, or other imaging tests – These tests create images of the inside of the body and can show abnormal growths. 
What is cancer staging? — Cancer staging is a way in which doctors find out how far a cancer has spread.  
How is prostate cancer treated? — Men with prostate cancer often have a choice of treatment.  
The main treatments for prostate cancer are:  
Active surveillance – Men who choose this option do not have treatment right away. But they do have routine tests to check whether the cancer starts to grow more quickly. If so, they can start active treatment then. 
Surgery – Prostate cancer can sometimes be treated with surgery to remove the prostate gland.  
Radiation therapy – Radiation kills cancer cells. Radiation can be given from a machine that moves around your body. Or a doctor might put a source of radiation directly into the prostate gland. 
Hormone therapy – Male hormones in the body make prostate cancer grow. Hormone therapy reduces the levels of these hormones, which can shrink the cancer. For hormone therapy, men might take medicines. Or they might have surgery to remove the testicles. (Male hormones are made in the testicles.) This treatment is usually only for men with advanced cancer. But some men with early stage cancer get it along with radiation or surgery. 
Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the term doctors use to describe a group of medicines that kill cancer cells. Men with advanced prostate cancer might get chemotherapy if hormone therapy stops working. In some cases, chemotherapy and hormone therapy are given at the same time. 
Some men, especially older men with other serious medical conditions, might choose not to do any of the above. Instead, they might choose “watchful waiting.” Watchful waiting is not exactly the same as active surveillance. It does not require regular testing, but involves treating symptoms when they happen. 
How do I choose which treatment to have? — You and your doctor will have to work together to choose the right treatment for you. The right treatment will depend on:  
●The stage of your cancer  
●Your age  
●Whether you have other health problems  
●How you feel about the treatment options  
Always let your doctors and nurses know how you feel about a treatment. Any time you are offered a treatment, ask: 
●What are the benefits of this treatment? Is it likely to help me live longer? Will it reduce or prevent symptoms?  
●What are the downsides to this treatment?  
●Are there other options besides this treatment?  
●What happens if I do not have this treatment? 
What happens after treatment? — After treatment, some men keep getting checked to see if the cancer comes back or starts growing more quickly. Other men choose not to be checked. Follow-up tests can include PSA tests, exams, biopsies, or imaging tests.  
What happens if the cancer comes back or spreads? — If the cancer comes back, you might have more radiation therapy, surgery, or hormone therapy. You might also have chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the term doctors use to describe a group of medicines that kill cancer cells. 
Can prostate cancer be prevented? — Men who are at high risk of getting prostate cancer can sometimes take a medicine to help prevent the disease. If you have a family history of prostate cancer, talk to your doctor.  
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete. 
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jan 25, 2016. 
Topic 15415 Version 7.0 
Release: 23.7 - C24.18 
© 2016 UpToDate, Inc. All rights reserved. 
figure 1:

Prostate gland

figure 1:

Prostate gland

This drawing shows the male anatomy and a close-up of the prostate gland.

Graphic 65675 Version 3.0

figure 2:

Rectal exam

figure 2:

Rectal exam

During a digital rectal exam, the doctor or nurse puts a finger inside your rectum and feels your prostate gland. That way he or she can see how big it is and whether it has bumps or dents or anything unusual.

Graphic 80412 Version 4.0

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This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. This is only a brief summary of general information. It does NOT include all information about conditions, illnesses, injuries, tests, procedures, treatments, therapies, discharge instructions or life-style choices that may apply to you. You must talk with your health care provider for complete information about your health and treatment options. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to accept your health care provider's advice, instructions or recommendations. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to provide advice that is right for you.The use of UpToDate content is governed by the UpToDate Terms of Use. ©2016 UpToDate, Inc. All rights reserved. 

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© 2016 UpToDate, Inc. All rights reserved. 
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