This section is for men who have recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer. It is your guide and explains what prostate cancer is, tests you may have to diagnose it and the treatment options available.
You may find it useful to share this information with your partner or family to help them understand more about prostate cancer. If you or those close to you would like to know more about anything you read in this section, you can contact our hotline.
The prostate is a sex gland found only in males. It lies at the base of the bladder, surrounding the tube called the urethra which carries urine and semen to the end of the penis. It is about the size of a walnut. A healthy prostate is essential to full sexual function, as it carries sperm and other nutrients down the urethra during orgasm. As men age, the gland becomes enlarged and can squeeze the urethra, giving a reduced urine flow. This can lead to problems with the prostate, common in older men.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Normally the growth of all cells in the body is carefully controlled. As cells die, they are replaced by new ones. Prostate cancer can develop when cells in the prostate gland start to grow in an uncontrolled way.
In most cases prostate cancer is a slow growing cancer and it may stay undiagnosed because it never causes any symptoms.
However, in some men, the cancer may grow more quickly. It sometimes causes symptoms such as problems passing urine. Sometimes the cancer spreads outside the prostate to other parts of the body. The bones are a common place for prostate cancer to spread to, and it may cause symptoms such as bone pain.
About one in nine men (11 per cent) will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives. The following factors may increase your risk of prostate cancer:
Evidence of cancer in the prostate need not necessarily be a cause for immediate concern, as many cancers grow so slowly that they may never develop to be life-threatening. Unfortunately research is still not sufficiently advanced to predict with accuracy which cancers are slowgrowing and which are aggressive.
There is increasing evidence that prostate cancer may be not one, but at least two diseases. The indolent cancers, the ‘pussy-cats’, may only require careful monitoring, without necessarily needing any immediate radical treatment. The more aggressive ‘tigers’, however, will need active treatment, ideally before the cancer starts to spread outside the prostate and invade other areas of the body.