The prostate is a gland in the pelvis. Its main function is to create reproductive fluid. Prostate cancer is a significant health issue for men: More than 280,000 men in the U.S. are diagnosed and approximately 28,000 die of prostate cancer each year.
The cause of prostate cancer is unknown. It typically occurs in men over 50. But for men with a family history of prostate cancer, it can occur much earlier.
The Swedish Cancer Institute is a regional referral center, and treats more than 700 men with prostate cancer every year. Our multidisciplinary cancer team works together to properly diagnose and treat people at all stages of prostate cancer.
The Cancer Institute also offers a wealth of information about prostate cancer.
Men with early stage prostate cancer may have no symptoms at all. When cancer becomes more advanced, symptoms may include:
- Problems with urination
- Pain with ejaculation
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Unexplained back pain or bone pain
- Bowel or bladder incontinence
Early-stage prostate cancers are often discovered during routine screening. Diagnostic tests include:
- PSA test: measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in the blood
- Digital rectal exam: checks for abnormalities that can be felt by the physician
- Biopsy: extracts a small amount of tissue to be studied by a pathologist
While a rising PSA can be an early indicator of prostate cancer, it also can be elevated in men who have large prostates or prostate inflammation.
Cancer falls in stages 1 through 4, with 1 being the earliest stage. Determining the stage of the cancer is key to providing the best possible treatment. Staging involves determining:
- The extent of cancer in or surrounding the prostate
- Whether lymph nodes near the prostate contain cancer
- Whether cancer has spread to different sites, such as bone
A biopsy shows cancer in a small sample. Removing the prostate gland and nearby lymph nodes remains the definitive way to determine the stage of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer can be a slow-growing cancer in certain cases. Depending on a man's age and extent of cancer, the best course of action may be active surveillance, which involves following the patient's cancer with repeat prostate biopsies.
Several treatment options and combinations of therapies are available to men with prostate cancer. These options include:
- Surgery to remove the prostate
- External beam radiation therapy
- Hormone ablation therapy
Surgery is often the best option for patients whose cancer has not spread beyond the prostate. Removing the prostate is called prostatectomy.
Surgeons at Swedish are experts in robotic prostatectomy. Compared to traditional open prostatectomy, patients who have a robotic prostatectomy typically experience:
- Less pain
- Less blood loss
- Quicker removal of the post-operative catheter
- Shorter hospital stays
- Quicker return to activities of daily living
The Swedish Cancer Institute offers a full spectrum of care and services, and provides extensive information about treatment options for men with prostate cancer.