The prostate is a walnut-sized gland in men that is part of the reproductive system.

The prostate sits low in the pelvis, below the bladder, in front of the rectum and the prostate surrounds the urethra. The prostate makes seminal fluid, the liquid in sperm that protects, supports and helps transport sperm.

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Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men.

  • Nearly 31,620 men will die needlessly of prostate cancer.
  • 1 in 9 American men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 41 men will die of this disease.
  • Prostate cancer is nearly 100% survivable if caught early.

Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

Age: The risk of prostate cancer increases with age.

Ethnicity: Prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men than of men of other races. African-American men are also more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer.
Family History: Men with a family history of prostate, breast, ovarian, colon or pancreatic cancers may be at an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Genetic Mutations: Inherited mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes raise the risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer in some families.

Diet: Studies indicate there may be a link between diet and the cause or prevention of prostate cancer.

Chemical Exposure: Exposure to certain chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides may have higher than average rates of prostate cancer.  Veterans who were exposed to the defoliate Agent Orange are 49% more likely than non-exposed veterans to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Firefighters:  Recent studies show that firefighters are at a 28% greater risk to develop prostate cancer compared to the general population.

Prevalence of Prostate Cancer

An estimated 174,650 new cases of prostate cancer will occur in the United States this year. Further it is expected that 31,620 deaths will occur this year due to prostate cancer.  This is the second leading cause of cancer death in men.

Men age 40 and older who have at least a 10-year life expectancy should talk with their health care professional about having a baseline digital rectal exam of the prostate gland and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

Most prostate cancers are discovered in the local (confined to the prostate) stage; the 5-year relative survival rate for patients whose tumors are diagnosed at the earliest stages of the disease is nearly 100%.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a disease characterized by the uncontrolled growth and potential spread of abnormal cells. The human body is made up of billions of cells that normally divide to reproduce themselves. Occasionally, cells abnormally divide too quickly. Rapidly dividing cells can create a mass called a tumor. Some tumors are benign (noncancerous, no potential to spread) and others are malignant (cancerous). The growth of a benign tumor may interfere with body functions but these tumors are seldom life threatening. On the other hand, malignant tumors invade and destroy normal tissue. By a process called metastasis, cells break away from a cancerous tumor and spread through the blood and lymphatic system to other parts of the body, where they form new tumors. Sometimes cancer grows and spreads rapidly, in other cases it develops and spreads slowly.

What is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer begins when normal cells in the prostate begin to change and grow uncontrollably.  Some prostate cancers grow slowly and may not cause symptoms or problems for years while other prostate cancers are more aggressive and grow quicker. Often there is no way to predict how aggressive a cancer is before a biopsy. However there are multiple new biomarkers and genomic tests available that may aid in determining if the cancer will be aggressive or not. Click below for more information about these biomarkers and genomic tests.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed, major cancer among all Americans. The incidence of prostate cancer increases with age. Some studies have shown an overall 2-to 3-fold increase in the risk of prostate cancer in men who have a history of this disease in their family. Family history is defined a family member such as mother, father, brother, sister, etc. with prostate, breast, ovarian, colon or pancreatic cancers. It is more significant if a family member was diagnosed with cancer at a younger age (less than 60 years old). The incidence rate of prostate cancer is two times higher in African-American men than Caucasian men. Men with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation are also at higher risk for prostate cancer.

Prostate Cancer Symptoms

In its early stages not everyone experiences signs or symptoms of prostate cancer.  However, you should go to your doctor if experiencing any of these symptoms because it could also be a sign of other prostate conditions. 

  • Problems passing urine, such as slow or weak stream.
  • Problems with needing to urine frequently, especially throughout the night.
  • Problems with holding back urine or even loss of bladder control.
  • Finding blood in urine.
  • Difficulty getting an erection or getting a painful erection.
  • Pain in hips, lower back and chest.

More information check out the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Prostate Cancer Guidelines for Patients

Linked with permission from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc. 2015 all rights reserved.  The NCCN Guidelines for Patients and illustrations therein may not be reproduced in any form for any purpose without the express written permission of the NCCN.  To view the most recent and complete version of the NCCN Guidelines for Patients, go online to

Early detection saved my life.  More men need to know about their risk, and their opportunities to get screened.

~ Keith Wegen, prostate cancer survivor

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