Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer among men. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men resulting in approximately 31,000 deaths each year. Prostate cancer is twice as common among African-American men than it is among men of European (White) descent. Additionally, African-American men have the world's highest prostate cancer death rate.

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Prostate cancer is found mainly in older men. As men age, the prostate may get bigger and block the urethra or bladder. This may cause difficulty in urination or can interfere with sexual function. The condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and although it is not cancer, surgery may be needed to correct it. The symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia or of other problems in the prostate may be similar to symptoms of prostate cancer. (Source: National Cancer Institute)

Download Prostate Cancer Fact Sheet (pdf)

Cause and Prevention

Since the actual cause of prostate cancer is unknown, it is currently not possible to prevent most cases of this disease. However, men can take steps to protect themselves. By learning to recognize the risk factors and the symptoms associated with this disease and by getting early screening tests, many cases of prostate cancer can be detected and treated before spreading to other areas of the body. Additionally, eating a diet low in fat and high in fruits and vegetables may help men lower their chances of developing prostate cancer.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease. The following is a list of risk factors for prostate cancer. Remember, many men develop this disease without having any of these risk factors. Likewise, men who have one or more of the risk factors may never develop this disease.

  • Advancing age
  • African-American men have higher risk
  • Most common in men from North America and Northwestern Europe
  • High Fat Diet
  • Smoking
  • Family history of cancer

Possible Symptoms

When prostate cancer is in its earliest stages there are generally no symptoms present. However, as the cancer expands and begins to spread to other parts of the body, the following may or may not be present.

  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine.
  • Frequent urination (especially at night).
  • Trouble urinating.
  • Pain or burning during urination.
  • Blood in the urine or semen.
  • A pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn't go away.

The most common tests used to detect prostate cancer are:

  • Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test


If the result of the PSA blood test or the DRE indicates a possibility of prostate cancer being present, tests that examine the prostate and blood can be used to detect (find) and diagnose prostate cancer. The earlier prostate cancer is found, the better the chances are that it can be treated. The most common tests are listed below. Additional tests to determine the stage and grade of the cancer will then be performed. Staging indicates whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Grading the cancer will indicate whether the cancer is fast growing (more likely to spread) or slow growing:

  • Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test
  • Transrectal ultrasound
  • Biopsy


The choice of treatment depends on several factors: the individual's overall health, age, life expectancy, the grade and stage of the disease, the effects of treatment, and personal preferences. Treatments include:

  • Watchful waiting
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials. Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.


Survival rates for all stages of prostate cancer have improved over the years and at least 89% of men diagnosed can expect to live at least 5 years from the time of their diagnosis and 63% survive 10 years. If the cancer has not spread beyond the prostate gland the 5 year survival is 99%.

Additional Resources:

For more information, please contact your local S.C. DHEC Public Health Department



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