Prostate cancer develops when abnormal cells form in the prostate. Most prostate cancers grow more slowly than other types of cancer. Early (or localised) prostate cancer means cancer cells have grown, but they have not spread beyond the prostate. Some prostate cancers may spread to other parts of the body, such as the bladder, bones and lymph nodes. This is called advanced prostate cancer.
On this page you will find information on:
- How common is prostate cancer?
- What are the risk factors?
- What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
- How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for prostate cancer?
- What is the prognosis?
- What support is available?
How common is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Queensland men. There are about 4,000 new cases in Australia every year. One in five men in Australia are at risk of developing prostate cancer before age 85. It is less common in men under 50, unless they have a family history of prostate cancer.
Risks factors of prostate cancer
The causes of prostate cancer are unknown. However, there are a few known risk factors:
- Age – prostate cancer mainly affects men over 65
- Family history – if one or more close male relatives (father or brother) have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the disease may run in your family. A family history of breast or ovarian cancer may also increase your risk
- Genes – Inherited gene mutations may increase the risk of prostate cancer in some men
- African descent – men of African descent have a higher risk than men of European or Asian descent.
Symptoms of prostate cancer
Early prostate cancer rarely causes symptoms. This is because the cancer usually grows in the outer part of the gland, and does not put pressure on the urethra. If the cancer grows and spreads it may cause:
- pain or burning when urinating
- increased frequency or difficulty urinating
- blood in the urine or semen
- pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs
- weight loss.
These symptoms are common to other conditions, and may not be a sign of advanced prostate cancer. If you are concerned and/or are experiencing any of these symptoms, speak to your doctor.
If you have symptoms that could be due to prostate cancer, your GP can do initial tests. If you need further tests, your GP can refer you to a specialist. Depending on your symptoms, you may have one or more of the following tests:
- Blood test – to measure prostate specific antigen (PSA), a protein made by both normal prostate cells and cancerous prostate cells.
- Digital rectal examination – involves a doctor inserting a gloved finger into your rectum to feel the back of the prostate gland.
- Biopsy – a small amount of tissue is removed from your prostate and is examined by a pathologist
Other tests include:
Some tests may be repeated during or after treatment to check how well the treatment is working. Waiting for the test results can be a stressful time. It may help to talk to a friend or family member, a healthcare professional, or call Cancer Council on 13 11 20.
Treatment of prostate cancer
Your urologist and radiation oncologist will consider your age, general health, and the stage and grade of the prostate cancer. Then they will advise you on the best way to manage or treat the cancer. The side effects that you are prepared to accept are also important.
- Localised: if not causing symptoms, the doctor may simply ‘watch’ the prostate for changes through regular surveillance. Surgery or radiotherapy may also be offered.
- Locally advanced: You will be offered surgery or radiotherapy
- Advanced: you will usually be offered a form of hormone therapy
For more information on the management or treatment of prostate cancer please refer to the Understanding Prostate Cancer booklet.
Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. You may need to discuss your prognosis with your doctor, but it is not possible for any doctor to predict the exact course of your disease.
Your doctor will consider your test results, the rate and depth of tumour growth and other factors such as your age, fitness and medical history. These factors will also help your doctor give you advice on the best management or treatment options and let you know what to expect.
Prostate cancer usually grows slowly, even fast-growing prostate cancer grows slower than other types of cancer. This means that for many men, the prognosis will be favourable and generally there will be no urgency for treatment.
Whether you have been diagnosed with a prostate cancer, or have a family member or friend who is affected by cancer, there are times when you may need support. Our professional services and support programs are here to help you.
Find out more about:
- Phone support
- Email support
- Cancer counseling
- Practical and financial support
- Support groups
- Information sessions