Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer type found in men in the UK, with one out of eight men getting it in their lifetime. Find out more about prostate cancer, including the causes, risk factors and symptoms of cancer, as well as staging and grading.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is when cells in the prostate gland become abnormal and grow uncontrollably. In some cases, the cancer grows too slowly to cause major problems. But sometimes, it can grow quickly and need treatment to stop it from spreading to the rest of the body.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer type found in men in the UK with one in eight men being diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. This type of cancer often starts in the outer part of the prostate gland, but it can develop in any prostate tissue.

Where is prostate cancer found?

Prostate cancer is found in the prostate gland. The prostate gland sits under the bladder around the urethra, and is about the shape and size of a walnut. It makes prostate fluid, found in semen, and a protein called prostate specific antigen (PSA).

Causes of prostate cancer

The exact cause of prostate cancer is not known. This makes it difficult for doctors to determine who may or may not develop the condition. Many factors can mean you have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. But having one or more of these doesn’t mean you definitely will get it.


Risk factors for prostate cancer

You have an increased risk of prostate cancer if:

  • You’re older – your prostate cancer risk increases with age; most cases are diagnosed in men over the age of 50
  • You have a family history of prostate cancer
  • You’re overweight or have obesity
  • You have different hormone levels – research shows men with higher levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer
  • Have black ethnicity

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Early prostate cancer does not usually have any symptoms. However, you may start to notice some urinary problems as the tumour grows bigger and starts to press on your urethra. Prostate cancer signs and symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty in starting urination
  • Finding it hard to fully empty your bladder or feeling like your bladder hasn’t emptied properly
  • Weak urine flow
  • Leaking of urine, which might be just before or after you go to the toilet
  • Needing to urinate more often, particularly during the night
  • Sudden urges to urinate

You may notice other symptoms that are associated with more advanced prostate cancer. These can include:

  • Bone pain or pain in your back, hip or pelvis
  • Difficulty in achieving and maintaining an erection
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Unexplained weight loss

Other conditions such as prostate enlargement (also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH) can cause similar symptoms. So if you have one or more of these symptoms, it does not mean you have prostate cancer. See a doctor if you have any concerns so they can give you the appropriate advice, diagnosis and treatment if necessary.

See an expert

If you're worried about symptoms, you can see a leading urologist specialising in diagnosing and treating urinary and prostate-related problems at one of our UrologyHubs.

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

Your doctor may perform a digital rectal exam (DRE) to assess how your prostate feels. They may also arrange for you to have a blood test called a PSA test. High levels of a substance called prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood can be a sign of prostate cancer. However, your PSA level can also naturally increase as you age.

If your GP thinks you should see a specialist for more tests, you might have an MRI scan or a prostate biopsy. If these tests show you have prostate cancer, further tests and scans help decide the next steps best for you and if you need treatment. You might have a CT scan, PET-CT scan, or a bone scan.

How to check for prostate cancer

Know the symptoms of prostate cancer and how to get checked. Learn more about what you can do to check for prostate cancer, the tests and scans that are used, and when and how to get them.

Prostate cancer stages

Stage 1 and 2 prostate cancer

Where the cancerous cells are only in the prostate. This is also called localised or early stage prostate cancer.

Stage 3 prostate cancer

Where the cancer has spread to the outer part of the prostate gland and possibly tissues nearby, such as the seminal vesicles. This is also called locally advanced prostate cancer

Stage 4 prostate cancer

Where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system (metastasis). This is also called metastatic or advanced prostate cancer.


Treatment for prostate cancer

If you have prostate cancer, your treatment options depend on the stage and grade of your cancer, your age and general health.

Your doctor may recommend active surveillance if the cancer is unlikely to cause you problems because it is slow-growing. Active surveillance, or watchful waiting, means you’ll have regular follow-ups to monitor the cancer. You’ll only have treatment if it changes or progresses to spare you from unnecessary side effects.

If you need prostate cancer treatment, common treatment options include:

  • Surgery to remove your prostate, called a radical prostatectomy
  • Radiotherapy (radiation therapy) or brachytherapy – a form of internal radiotherapy
  • Hormone therapy, also called androgen deprivation therapy
  • Chemotherapy to treat cancer that’s spread beyond the prostate
  • Theranostics, such as 177Lutetium PSMA therapy or Radium-223 therapy

Other treatment options include cryotherapy and high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). However, doctors and scientists are still looking at how effective these treatments are, using the latest prostate cancer research and clinical trials.

Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) is a highly targeted form of radiotherapy which can be used to treat locally recurrent prostate cancer that has returned to the prostate or prostate bed after treatment that aimed to cure it and hasn’t spread elsewhere. This is known as prostate cancer reirradiation.  

At GenesisCare we deliver repeat radiotherapy to the prostate on the MRIdian MR linac. The high accuracy of treatment the MRIdian affords means radiation is precisely focused on the tumour, minimising exposure to healthy surrounding tissues that may have already been exposed to radiation in the past.

Find out more about prostate cancer reirradiation on the MRIdian


Prostate cancer treatment at GenesisCare

Learn more about the latest treatments we offer for prostate cancer, including chemotherapy, hormone therapy and advanced radiotherapy techniques that reduce side effects. Our highly experienced teams ensure that you get world-class healthcare, with a personalised cancer care plan tailored to you.

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