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Talk to your doctor

Information about the symptoms, stages and treatment for prostate cancer.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer Symptoms

Prostate cancer may not cause symptoms at first. To find out if you have prostate cancer, your healthcare provider must examine you and order tests. Just because you don’t feel symptoms doesn’t mean you’re cancer-free. In its early stages, the only way to know if you have prostate cancer is through a routine screening. Please do yourself a favor and talk to your doctor about a prostate exam. Find a Primary Care Provider and schedule a screening today.

The tests for prostate cancer help confirm a diagnosis They also help give more information about a cancerous tumor. Tests might include:

  • Prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing. PSA is a chemical made by prostate tissue. The amount of PSA in the blood (PSA level) is tested to check a man’s risk for prostate cancer. In general, a high or rising PSA level may mean an increased cancer risk. A PSA test by itself cannot show if a man has prostate cancer. PSA testing is also used to check the success of cancer treatments.
  • Core needle biopsy. This test is done to determine if a man has prostate cancer. A hollow needle is used to take small pieces of tissue from the prostate. This helps give more information about the cells. Before the test, pain medicine may be given to prevent pain. During the test, a small probe is inserted into the rectum. The probe sends an image of the prostate to a video monitor. With this image as a guide, the healthcare provider uses a thin, hollow needle to remove tiny tissue samples from the prostate. These are sent to a lab where they are looked at for cancer cells.

Prostate Cancer Stages

The most commonly used system to stage prostate cancer is the TNM system from the American Joint Committee on Cancer. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider to explain the stage of your cancer in a way you can understand. The first step is to decide the value for each part of the TNM system. Here's what the letters stand for in the TNM system:

  • T tells how far the main tumor has spread into the prostate gland and nearby tissue.

  • N tells if the lymph nodes in the area of the original tumor have cancer in them.

  • M tells if the cancer has spread (metastasized) to distant organs in the body, such as the bones.

Numbers and letters after T, N, and M give more details about each of these factors. Higher numbers mean the cancer is more advanced. Your PSA level when you were diagnosed and your grade group (which is based on your Gleason score) are also key pieces of information used during staging. (The Gleason score notes how different the cancer cells look from normal prostate cells.)

Prostate Cancer Treatment

Your treatment options are based on the grade and stage of the cancer, as well as your health and personal preferences. Your healthcare team will talk with you about your choices and find what is best for you. Your choices may include:

  • Active surveillance. You may not need treatment at this time. This depends on the grade and stage of the cancer. It also depends on your age and general health, as well as your personal preferences. Your health care team will watch your health. They will decide when you will need follow-up exams or biopsies. They will then schedule treatment at a later date if needed.

  • Treating to cure. If the cancer is detected at an early stage, the chance of full recovery is good. Early-stage cancer can often be cured by removing it with surgery. Or it can be destroyed with radiation.

  • Treating to control. Late-stage cancer often can’t be cured. But it may be controlled to slow down the growth and provide a reasonable quality of life (palliative care). Methods for control might include surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, vaccine therapy, and chemotherapy.