Prostate Cancer

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The prostate is a walnut-sized gland in men. It surrounds the urethra. The prostate makes a fluid that is part of semen. Prostate cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the prostate gland.

Factors that may increase the risk of prostate cancer include:

  • Age: After 50 years old, the risk of developing prostate cancer increases. However, the majority of prostate cancers are seen in men over age 65.
  • Race and ethnicity: In the U.S., African Americans have higher rates of developing prostate cancer. They are also more likely than Caucasian men to die from prostate cancer.

  • High-fat diet: Good nutrition is essential for health and well-being. Studies have found an association between diets high in fat and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

  • Lack of exercise: Living a sedentary lifestyle may put you at greater risk for prostate cancer, while studies have found that exercising regularly may reduce your risk of prostate cancer.

  • Family history: Having a father or brother with prostate cancer or other family member diagnosed with prostate cancer at a young age increases your risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

  • Chemical exposure: Exposure to an herbicide known as Agent Orange has been associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. You may have been exposed to this herbicide if you served in the armed forces, especially during the Vietnam War when the herbicide was used to clear vegetation.

Common Cancer for Older Men

Urologist Noah Schenkman, MD, discusses the symptoms and treatments of prostate cancer. View prostate cancer transcript.


Symptoms may include:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
  • Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
  • Not able to urinate
  • Weak or interrupted urine flow
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Difficulty having an erection
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs


Your doctor may order tests, such as:

  • Digital rectal exam
  • Urine test
  • Blood tests
  • Other tests, such as:
    • Transrectal ultrasonography
    • Prostate biopsy


Treatment options include:

  • Active Surveillance if you:
    • Have early stage prostate cancer that is growing slowly
    • Are of an advanced age
    • Have serious health problems (risks of treatment outweigh the benefits)
  • Surgery
    • Robotic Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy (RALPH)
    • Pelvic lymphadenectomy
    • Open Radical retropubic prostatectomy
  • Radiation Therapy
    • Conformal radiation therapy
    • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
    • Radium-223 treatment
  • Hormone Therapy
    • Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) analogs (such as goserelin, histrelin, leuprolide, triptorelin)
    • Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) antagonists (such as degarelix)
    • Anti-androgens (such as bicalutamide, flutamide, nilutamide)
    • Other types of hormone therapy, such as:
      • Estrogen therapy—rarely used now unless other treatments are not working
      • Ketoconazole—affects the production of androgens
      • Abiratrone—may be used in cases where prostate cancer does not respond to other treatments
      • Orteronel (experimental drug)—affects the production of androgens
      • Enzalutamide—affects the production of androgens
      • Abiratrone—may be used in advanced stages of prostate cancer
  • Other Treatment Options
    • Cryosurgery
    • Chemotherapy
    • Immunotherapy
    • Targeted therapies
      • Selective endothelin A receptor antagonist (SERA)
      • Anti-angiogenic drugs
      • Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (such as Imatinib)
    • High-intensity focused ultrasound

BPH, Prevention

To reduce your risk of prostate cancer, take the following steps:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Your diet should be high in fruits, vegetables, and fish, and low in red meat.
  • Ask your doctor about taking certain medicines. For example, daily aspirin therapy and 5-alpha reductase inhibitors may reduce your risk of prostate cancer.

Learn more about our prostate treatment expertise.

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.