Skip to Content

  • Wait Times
  • Site Search

What Is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer is the second-most-common type of cancer found in American men. It begins in the prostate gland when cells divide and grow uncontrollably. Most of the time, prostate cancer grows very slowly. In fact, autopsy studies have shown that many older men who died of other diseases had undetected prostate cancer.


Signs and Symptoms

Typically, prostate cancer has no symptoms in its earliest stages. That's why many cases of prostate cancer are not diagnosed until they have spread to other areas of the body. When symptoms do occur, they usually include:

  • Dull pain in the lower pelvic area
  • Urgency of urination or a feeling that the bladder is not empty
  • Difficulty starting urination, and weak or intermittent urine flow
  • Pain during urination
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Blood in the urine
  • Painful ejaculation
  • General pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs
  • Unexplained loss of appetite or weight 

Risk Factors

Researchers have identified several factors that may put men at risk for prostate cancer, including:

  • Age - The risk increases with age. In fact, 75 percent of cases are diagnosed in men older than 65.
  • Race or ethnicity - For unknown reasons, African-American men are more likely than any other ethnic group in the United States to have prostate cancer.
  • Family history - Men who have a first-degree relative, such as a father or brother, with prostate cancer are considered to have a greater risk for developing the disease.
  • Diet - A high-fat diet may increase the chance of developing prostate cancer. One theory is that fat boosts testosterone production, which speeds the growth of prostate cancer cells.

Early Detection

Because prostate cancer often doesn't produce symptoms, the American Cancer Society recommends that all men over 50 who have at least a 10 year life expectancy recieve these screenings annually:

  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test- blood sample is analyzed for PSA, a substance that is naturally produced by the prostate gland to liquefy semen. Elevated levels of PSA in the blood stream may indicate prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement or cancer.
  • Digital rectal exam (DRE) - Your doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to examine your prostate gland and determine any abnormalities in its texture, shape or size.

African-American men and those with close family members who have had prostate cancer should begin the annual screenings at age 45.

If prostate abnormalities are suspected, your doctor may order additional tests, such as:

  • Transrectal Utrasound - A small probe is inserted into your rectum. The probe uses sound waves to get a clear picture of your prostate gland.
  • Biopsy - An ultrasound probe is inserted into your rectum to locate any suspicious areas. If a suspicious area is located, a small tissue sample will be removed and analyzed to determine if cancer cells are present.

Once you've received a complete diagnosis, further tests may be ordered to reveal the stage of the cancer. They include:

  • Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan - Special X-ray equipment makes cross-sectional pictures of the body. These images can show whether prostate cancer has spread into lymph nodes in your pelvis.
  • Bone scan - This procedure helps show whether the cancer has spread from the prostate gland to the bones. During a bone scan, you will be given an injection of low-dose radioactive material that concentrates in diseased bone cells and shows up on the scan as "hot spots." These spots can be cancer or signs of other bone-related diseases, such as arthritis.

The MidMichigan Difference

Accredited by the American College of Surgeons, MidMichigan Health's Pardee Cancer Center is unlike any other cancer center in the region. We offer:

  • Trained experts who are available to review individual cases through multidisciplinary cancer conferences
  • Referrals to highly skilled specialists and oncologists
  • Hope and support during every phase of your diagnosis and treatment
  • MidMichigan Medical Center in Midland has an Oncology Nurse Navigator who guides patients through their course of treatment.
  • Advanced prostate cancer treatment options and other approaches that include:
    • Chemotherapy - Treatment with drugs that destroy cancer cells
    • Hormone therapy - Treatment with hormones or drugs that interfere with hormone production or action
    • Orchiectomy - The surgical removal of the testicles
    • Radiation oncology - External Beam Treatments with high-energy rays, IMRT or 3D conformal, to kill or shrink cancer cells. Internal Beam treatments using Brachytherapy in the form of Prostate Seed Implants.
    • Radical prostatectomy - Surgical removal of the entire prostate gland and surrounding tissue
    • Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) - A surgical procedure that involves removing part of the prostate gland surrounding the urethra
    • Watchful waiting - Because prostate cancer can grow slowly, your doctor may suggest close monitoring versus active treatment. If your situation changes, active treatment may be started at any time.

Reducing Your Risk

Because the cause of prostate cancer remains unknown, there isn't a proven formula that will prevent the disease from striking you. However, these preventive measures may reduce your risk or slow the disease's progression:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet each day, with five or more servings of fruits and vegetables and 25 to 30 grams of fiber
  • Limiting your intake of high-fat foods
  • Exercising for at least 30 minutes three or four days a week
  • Seeing your doctor regularly