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Prostate Cancer Screenings, Prevention and Treatment options

Prostate Cancer

What is Prostate Cancer?

Cancer is when cells in the body change and grow out of control. To help you understand what happens when you have cancer, let’s look at how your body works normally. Your body is made up of tiny building blocks called cells. Normal cells grow when your body needs them, and die when your body does not need them any longer.

Cancer is made up of abnormal cells that grow even though your body doesn’t need them. In most cancers, the abnormal cells grow to form a lump or mass called a tumor. If cancer cells are in the body long enough, they can grow into (invade) nearby areas. They can even spread to other parts of the body (metastasis).

Prostate Diagram

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men (not counting skin cancer) in the U.S. It tends to occur mainly in older men. In most cases prostate cancer is found before it has spread to other parts of the body. Cancer that hasn’t spread is easier to treat and cure.

Risk factors for prostate cancer

Risk factors for prostate cancer include:

  • Gender. Only men are at risk.
  • Age. Men ages 50 and older are at higher risk. Almost 2/3 of all prostate cancers are found in men over age 65.
  • Race and nationality. Prostate cancer is more common in African-American men. It is less common in Asian-American and Hispanic men. Asian men in the U.S. are at higher risk than Asian men living in Asia.
  • Family history of prostate cancer. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer greatly raises a man’s risk for the disease. The risk is even higher if more than 1 family member has the cancer, especially if at a young age.
  • Diet. Men who have a diet high in red meat or high-fat dairy foods and low in vegetables and fruits may have a greater chance of getting prostate cancer.
  • Obesity. Obesity has been linked with a higher risk of a more aggressive type of prostate cancer.
  • Chemicals in the workplace. Men who are in contact with toxic chemicals at work may have a higher risk for prostate cancer. This includes firefighters. There is also some evidence that men who were exposed to Agent Orange, which was used during the Vietnam War, might be at higher risk for prostate cancer. But the exact link is not clear.
  • Genes. Men with certain inherited gene changes are at higher risk for prostate cancer. But only a small amount of prostate cancers are strongly linked to gene changes.


Screening means checking for a health problem before a person has symptoms. This can sometimes find diseases like certain cancers early, which can lead to early treatment. This may improve the chance that treatment will work better. But it is not clear exactly how helpful screening is for prostate cancer.

Screening tests for prostate cancer

Two screening tests can look for prostate cancer:

  • PSA blood test. This test looks at the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. A higher level means it is more likely that a man has prostate cancer.
  • Digital rectal exam (DRE). In this exam, the healthcare provider inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate for abnormal areas. This test is not always done as part of prostate cancer screening.

Abnormal results on these screening tests can mean that a man may have prostate cancer, but these tests can’t diagnose prostate cancer. A prostate biopsy is needed to be sure. A biopsy is when small pieces of tissue are taken to be checked in a lab.


There is no sure way to prevent prostate cancer. Some risk factors for prostate cancer are not within your control. These include your age and family history. But you can do some things that may help lower your risk of getting prostate cancer.

A healthy lifestyle may help to lower your risk for prostate cancer. This includes:

  • Eating fruits and vegetables every day. Make sure to include tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Also include beans, peas, and lentils.
  • Not eating high-fat meats or high-fat dairy foods. These include hamburgers, sausage, cheese, and ice cream. Instead eat lean meats, fish, and low-fat or nonfat dairy foods.
  • Not getting too much calcium in your diet. Too much calcium may raise your risk for prostate cancer. Normal amounts of calcium in dairy foods and drinks are fine. But talk with your healthcare provider before you take calcium supplements.
  • Staying at a healthy weight. Obesity is linked to a higher risk for a more deadly type of prostate cancer.
  • Getting physical activity. Be active for at least 30 minutes on most days.

Treatment Options

The treatment choices for prostate cancer depend on several things. These include your age and overall health, and the size and location of the cancer. They also include lab test results and the stage of the cancer. When prostate cancer is only in the prostate or has only spread to nearby areas, it is called early-stage prostate cancer. It’s also called localized or local prostate cancer.

You may have questions and concerns about your treatment options. For example, you may want to know if treatment will affect your urinary or sexual function. You may also want to know if you’ll have to change your normal activities.

Your healthcare provider is the best person to answer your questions. He or she can tell you what your treatment choices are, how successful they’re expected to be, and what the risks and side effects are. Your healthcare provider may advise a specific treatment. Or he or she may offer more than one, giving you a choice. This can be a hard decision to make. Each type of treatment has different benefits and risks. You may want to learn all you can about your disease and treatment choices so that you can make decisions about your care.

There are many different treatments for prostate cancer that involve the clinical care of a physician or other healthcare professional. Listed below are some options.

  • Expectant Therapy
  • Hormone Therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Herbal Remedies
  • Clinical Trials

Talking with healthcare providers about cancer can be overwhelming. It can be hard to take in all of the information. It helps to be prepared. Make a list of questions and bring them to your appointments. Write the answers down in a notebook. Make sure you ask how the treatment will change your daily life, including your diet. Ask how you will look and feel after treatment. Ask how successful the treatment is expected to be, and what the risks and possible side effects are.

You may also want to ask a friend or family member to go with you. He or she can take notes and write down the answers, and also ask questions you may not think of. You can also ask your healthcare provider if you can record the conversation.

Below are some questions to ask during your appointments.

Deciding on a treatment

  • What is the grade and stage of my cancer?
  • Has the cancer spread anywhere else in my body?
  • What are the treatment choices?
  • Do I need to be treated right away?
  • Is active surveillance an option?
  • What treatments do you think are best for me and why?
  • What treatments do you think are not for me and why?
  • What are the goals of the treatment you are recommending?
  • What is the success rate of this treatment for my stage of prostate cancer?
  • Are there any clinical trials I should apply for?

Talk to your healthcare provider

If you have questions about prostate cancer, talk with your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can help you understand more about this cancer.

© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.