Two men standing side-by-side.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men.Image by: Movember
Two men standing side-by-side.
1 February 2022

Know your prostate cancer facts

3 minutes read time

Did you know that prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men? It’s something we think a lot about here at Movember HQ – and it’s why we encourage everyone to put some time aside to learn a bit more about it.

This handy guide will answer your who, what and how questions about prostate cancer and – importantly – will point you to reliable information.

What is prostate cancer?

Your prostate is a walnut-sized gland, just below your bladder, that helps your body make semen. Prostate cancer is a disease where the cells in your prostate grow uncontrollably. Although prostate cancer often grows slowly and may not cause serious health problems straight away, like many other cancers it can also grow quickly and spread around the body.

Get more prostate cancer facts at True North, the Movember-funded initiative to give men and their supporters information for tackling prostate cancer.

What causes prostate cancer?

As with testicular cancer, it’s still unclear what specifically causes prostate cancer. In some parts of the world, as many as 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, with the majority of diagnoses occurring in older men.

While we don’t know exactly how you get prostate cancer, we do know quite a lot about which men are most at risk. Get to know your prostate cancer risk factors.

What are common prostate cancer symptoms?

Most men with early prostate cancer do not experience symptoms – it’s detected only after a routine health check-up with their doctor. Early symptoms of prostate cancer might include a change in how often you urinate, including difficulty starting your ‘flow’ or an increased need to go at night. Other warnings that may be related to prostate cancer include difficulty getting hard (having an erection), pain while coming (ejaculating), or blood in your urine or semen. While these signs don’t necessarily mean you have the disease, they are definitely reasons to get checked by a doctor.

Early detection of prostate cancer makes a huge difference. Get yourself checked if you’re over 50. And make that 45 if you’re Black, or have a brother or father who was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

How is prostate cancer detected?

A PSA test is the most common method for detecting prostate cancer. PSA stands for “prostate specific antigen”. It’s found in both healthy and cancerous blood cells, so it’s normal to have some in your blood. The test itself is a simple blood test that looks at the level of PSA in your sample. An increased PSA level might mean problems with the prostate, including prostate cancer. When we talk about screening, it usually refers to this form of testing.

Remember that elevated or raised PSA levels can mean problems other than prostate cancer, so your doctor will often recommend a second test. If this also returns similar PSA levels, your doctor will advise what to do next. This may involve a biopsy (where a tiny piece of tissue is taken for examination) or a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan to decide if a biopsy is required.

Get more information about what a raised PSA level means and understand your next steps.

What are common prostate cancer treatments?

Surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy are among the most widely used treatment options. Active surveillance – ongoing blood tests and other forms of monitoring – may be recommended for men with slower or less advanced prostate cancer; while watchful waiting is a less intense form of surveillance recommended for older men, or men with other health issues. Cryotherapy, High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment and immunotherapy are less commonly used treatments available in some countries. How well they work in prostate cancer, and their side effects, are still being understood.

Note that there is no single ‘best’ treatment for prostate cancer. The best treatment for you is the one that you and your doctor decide on together – based on your age, general health, life circumstances, and so on. What will work best for each person is different and the treatment decision should be a joint one.

Find out more about prostate cancer treatment options.