What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. It is usually diagnosed in men over 65. Prostate cancer can affect younger men, but it is uncommon in men under 50.

Prostate cancer may be early, locally advanced or advanced.

Symptoms of prostate cancer

If you are worried about prostate cancer, we have more information about the signs and symptoms.

Causes of prostate cancer

Doctors do not know the exact causes of prostate cancer. But there are risk factors that can increase your chance of developing it.

Having one or more risk factors does not mean you will get prostate cancer. Also, having no risk factors does not mean you will not develop prostate cancer.

We have more information about the risk factors of prostate cancer.

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Diagnosis of prostate cancer

Men who have symptoms usually begin by seeing their GP. The first tests used to diagnose prostate cancer are:

Your GP may refer you for other tests at the hospital:

Most prostate cancers grow very slowly. Even if it takes a couple of weeks to get your results, it is unlikely that the cancer will change during this time.

Waiting for test results can be a difficult time, we have more information that can help.

Further tests after diagnosis

Whether you have any further tests will depend on the risk of the cancer growing quickly. Doctors work out your risk by looking at the PSA level, the stage, and the grade of the cancer.

To help diagnose or stage prostate cancer, you may have staging tests:

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Staging and grading of prostate cancer

The stage of a cancer describes its size and how far it has spread, based on your test results. A doctor decides the grade by how the cancer cells look under the microscope. This gives an idea of how quickly the cancer might grow or spread.

You and your doctors can then talk about the best treatment choices for you.

Find out more about staging and grading of prostate cancer.

Treatment for prostate cancer

A team of specialists will meet to discuss the best possible treatment for you. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT).

Your doctor will explain the different treatments and their side effects. They will also talk to you about the things you should consider when making treatment decisions.

Your treatment will depend on the stage of your cancer. You can read overviews of treatment options for early, locally advanced and advanced prostate cancer.

Treatment may include one of the following:

You may also have some treatments as part of a clinical trial.

Find out more about prostate cancer treatments.

After prostate cancer treatment

You will have regular follow-up appointments after treatment.

You may get anxious before the appointments. This is natural. It may help to get support from family, friends or a support organisation. You can also call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 0000.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our prostate cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    European Association of Urologists. Guidelines on Prostate Cancer. 2016.

    European Society for Medical Oncology. Cancer of the prostate: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. 2015.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Prostate cancer overview. Available from: pathways.nice.org.uk/pathways/prostate-cancer (accessed from March 2017 to November 2017).

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Surveillance report 2016. Prostate cancer: diagnosis and management (2014). NICE guideline CG175. 2016.



  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editors, Dr Jim Barber, Consultant Clinical Oncologist and Dr Lisa Pickering, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.


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