About Prostate Cancer

What is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Australian men and the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men.

Cancer is caused when cells to reproduce in an uncontrollable manner, creating a mass of tissue, or tumour. In time this may spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening.  If detected early, prostate cancer is potentially curable.

Early-stage, curable prostate cancer may not have symptoms, but a simple test by your GP can indicate prostate cancer.  While younger men are less likely to be diagnosed with it, those who do get it are more likely to die prematurely from it.

A man has a 1 in 5 risk of developing prostate cancer by the age of 85. Men in rural and regional Australia have a 21% higher prostate cancer mortality rate than men in capital cities.

Nearly 20,000 new cases are diagnosed in Australia every year.

Signs & Diagnosis

What are the signs?

In the early stages there may be no symptoms. There may be:

  • pain or burning during urination
  • blood in the urine or semen
  • constant pain in the back, hips, or pelvis
  • pain during ejaculation

Note that ese symptoms are not always signs of prostate cancer. They can also be symptoms of other common and non-life threatening prostate disorders. If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your doctor immediately.

How is it diagnosed?

The tests that may be used to confirm a diagnosis include:

  • a digital rectal examination (DRE)
  • a blood test for ‘prostate specific antigen’ (PSA)
  • imaging of the prostate, by ultrasound, CT, or MRI
  • getting a tissue sample (biopsy) to examine under a microscope


Treatment options include:

  • Surveillance. Watching for tumour change or symptoms
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • High-intensity ultrasound
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cryosurgery
  • Hormonal therapy

Other factors to consider are age, general health, and the view of the patient on treatments and possible side-effects. As most treatments have side-effects such as erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence, discussions over treatment options should balance the goals of therapy with the risks of changes to your lifestyle.


What are the chances of getting prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in Australia. One in nine men in Australia will develop prostate cancer at some stage. A man is more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than a woman is to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

What are the main risk factors for developing prostate cancer?

  • increasing age
  • a strong family history of prostate cancer

Although only 1 in 10,000 under age 40 will be diagnosed, the rate jumps to 1 in 14 over the age of 60. More than 65% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.

If you have a father, brother or son with a history of prostate cancer, you are twice as likely to develop the disease, while those with two or more relatives affected are nearly 4 times as likely. The risk is highest in men whose family were diagnosed before age 65.

For Australian men, the chances of contracting prostate cancer are:

  • In your 40’s – 1 in 1000
  • In your 50’s – 12 in 1000
  • In your 60’s – 45 in 1000
  • In your 70’s – 80 in 1000

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

In the earliest stages, there are usually no symptoms. Some men may experience symptoms such as pain or burning during urination, blood in the urine or semen, or constant pain in the back, hips, or pelvis. See your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

How is it treated?

Treatment for prostate cancer depends on what stage the disease is at, the symptoms and the person’s general health. For those with small, low-grade cancers, treatment may not be recommended, but instead provided with “active surveillance” – regular blood tests or biopsies. Treatment can include surgery to remove the prostate, radiotherapyor hormonal therapyto destroy cancer cells.

Useful Links

Australian Prostate Cancer Collaboration assists men affected by prostate cancer and their families.

Prostate Cancer Support Groups

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