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Prostate Cancer

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. In fact, it is estimated that more than 230,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after lung cancer, prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among American men. The good news, however, is that the current survival rate is 97 percent. On average, an American man has a 30 percent risk of having prostate cancer in his lifetime, but only a 3 percent risk of dying of the disease.

The other good news is that among all racial and ethnic groups, prostate cancer death rates are declining. Perhaps the most encouraging prostate cancer statistic is that more men die with prostate cancer than from prostate cancer. The reason could be twofold: prostate cancer typically affects men older than 65 and, it is often a slowly progressing disease.

The UCSF Prostate Cancer Center is dedicated to providing the best comprehensive care for those with the disease and those at risk of developing it.

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For many men, a diagnosis of prostate cancer can be frightening not only because of the threat to their life, but because of the threat to their life style, particularly sexual function. The possible consequences of treatment, including bladder control problems and impotence, also known as erectile dysfunction, can be a greater worry for some men than the cancer itself. If prostate cancer is detected early — when it's still confined to the prostate — you have a better chance of successful treatment with minimal or short-term side effects.

Here are other some other significant prostate cancer statistics:

  • Prostate cancer represents over 32 percent of all new cancer cases in American men.
  • About 70 percent of prostate cancer diagnoses are made in men 65 years or older.
  • Only about 25 percent of prostate cancer cases occur in men under 65.
  • The average age at diagnosis is 72.
  • One in six American men has a risk of developing prostate cancer at some time in his life. If a close relative has prostate cancer, his risk more than doubles.
  • African-American men have the highest incidence of prostate cancer. The death rate for prostate cancer is more than double for African American men compared to Caucasian men.
  • Asian men have a relatively low rate of prostate cancer compared to other ethnic groups.
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Prostate cancer often doesn't produce any symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms that may indicate prostate cancer, and which should be followed up with a visit to the doctor, include:

  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Urgency in urinating
  • Trouble starting your urine stream
  • A weak or interrupted urine stream
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • A feeling that your bladder doesn't empty completely
  • Blood in the urine
  • A nagging pain in the back, hips or pelvis

Although these symptoms may indicate prostate cancer, they also can be caused by other conditions that are not cancer, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). As men age, the prostate often enlarges and can press on and block the urethra and bladder, producing some of the symptoms described above. BPH can be successfully treated with medication or surgery.

The two most commonly used methods for screening are the digital rectal exam and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.

  • Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) — During a digital rectal exam, a doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel for any irregular or abnormally firm areas in the prostate. Some, though not all, prostate cancers can be detected this way. The DRE also can be used to monitor the progress of treatment.
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Your team of doctors will help you decide which prostate cancer treatment is the best, most effective option for you. Each treatment has its benefits, risks and impacts on quality of life. Several treatments are very successful in providing a cure or keeping the cancer under control for many years. Most men with prostate cancer are living testimony to this.

Some prostate cancers grow quickly and spread — or metastasize — to other parts of the body. If unchecked, these cancers can be fatal. Most prostate cancers, however, are slow growing and in many cases, immediate treatment isn't necessary. Many men take several months to decide what to do. The decision can be complicated. You should consider the pros and cons of the various treatments, get second opinions and decide what is best for you, all of which may take time.

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Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.