Prostate Cancer Awareness

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. It is characterized by an abnormal growth in the cells of the prostate gland which may cause the prostate to swell and enlarge. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland in the male reproductive system located under the bladder and in front of the anus. According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer occurs in about 160 men out of every 100,000. In Chester County,516 males were diagnosed with Prostate cancer in 2007.

Risk Factors

  • Age - The risk for prostate cancer increases dramatically after age 50. The median age for diagnosis is 68 years of age.
  • Race – Prostate cancer is more common in African Americans. The reason for this is currently unknown.
  • Family history – Individuals who have had an immediate relative (father or brother) with prostate cancer are at an increased risk.
  • Diet – A high fat diet has been shown to increase risk. This is especially true when the fat is from red meat and full-fat dairy products (
  • Other lifestyle factors – Not eating the recommended amounts of fruit, fiber and vegetables; lack of exercise; being obese; and tobacco use can increase risk.


Like most cancers, prostate cancer has mild or no symptoms in the very early stages and the symptoms are often very vague. Early detection, however, is very important to successfully treat prostate cancer. It is important to talk with your doctor should any of the following symptoms start to occur:
  • Increased urgency or frequency of urination
  • Weak or interrupted urine flow
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pain or burning when urinating
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis

Prevention and Detection

Beginning at age 50, men should get regular screenings for prostate cancer. Men who are at a higher risk, including African American males, should begin screening as early as age 40. Screening helps detect signs of disease in people who have no symptoms.This is very important because typically there are few, if any symptoms in the early stages. Currently, there are two recommended screening tests:
  • Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) – A physician will insert a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum and feel the prostate through the rectal wall to check for lumps or other abnormalities.
  • Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test – PSA is a protein secreted by both normal and cancerous prostate cells. A high PSA reading can suggest cancer or a number of other conditions.
If there are abnormalities in either of these tests, your physician may recommend further examination. If there is reason to believe that cancer may be present they may discuss the following options:
  • Transrectal Biopsy – A biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose prostate cancer.A needle is inserted through the rectum and into the prostate in order to take small tissue samples from the prostate.These tissue samples are then checked for cancer cells.
  • Transrectal Ultrasound – A physician will insert a probe into the rectum.Sound waves from the probe bounce off of the prostate gland to create a computerized picture.From this picture, a physician can check for abnormal areas.
  • CT Scan – A series of pictures are taken using an X-ray machine and the results are reviewed for abnormal areas.
  • MRI – This is similar to a CT Scan except a strong magnet linked to a computer is used to generate pictures of the prostate.
  • Cytoscopy – A physician will use a thin, lighted tube to look into the urethra and bladder. This is helpful because the prostate sits under the bladder and surrounds the urethra.
There are many treatment options for prostate cancer which can be used alone or in combination. The recommended treatments depend on how the cancer has spread and a patient's existing health condition.
  • Surgery – Surgery is used to both diagnose and treat prostate cancer by removing cancerous tissue.
  • Prostatectomy – Surgery in which the entire prostate gland is removed.
  • Radiation – High energy x-rays are used to kill cancer cells in the prostate.
  • Hormone Treatment – Medication is taken to lower testosterone levels in the body.Blocking natural hormones can slow down or stop the growth of a prostate tumor.
  • Implanted Radiation Seeds – Radioactive "seeds" are implanted into the prostate to kill the cancer cells. This is also known as internal radiation therapy.
  • Radiation – High energy x-rays are used to kill cancer cells in the prostate. This is also known as external radiation therapy.
  • Cyrotherapy – A probe is placed inside or near the prostate to freeze and destroy cancer cells.
  • Active Surveillance (watchful waiting) – A patient's prostate cancer is closely monitored by performing PSA and DRE regularly.Treatment begins only if symptoms start to occur or if the cancer show signs of growing.