Prostate Cancer

One in nine men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. The earlier it is detected, the more options for treatment and the higher the chance of survival.

What is Prostate Cancer?

The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system, about the size of a walnut, that produces fluid so sperm can survive. It is located below the bladder, in front of the rectum, and surrounding the urethra. Prostate cancer is common and the second leading cause of cancer death in men. It is often detected using a blood screening test called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). If the test or a prostate exam is abnormal, your doctor may recommend a biopsy of the prostate.

What causes Prostate Cancer?

Like most cancers, the cause of prostate cancer is not known. However, the following factors increase the risk of developing prostate cancer:

  • Age: Men who are 50 or older have a higher risk for prostate cancer.
  • Race: African-American men have the highest risk for prostate cancer—the disease tends to start at younger ages and grows faster than in men of other races.
  • Family History: Men whose fathers or brothers have had prostate cancer have a higher risk than men who do not have a family history of the disease. Prostate cancer risk also appears to be slightly higher for men from families with a history of breast cancer.
  • Diet: Risk may be higher for men who eat high-fat diets.
  • Smoking
  • Obesity


Frequently, prostate cancer has no symptoms. However, some advanced cancers may cause:

  • Trouble with urination or bowel movements
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Back or bone pain
  • Weight loss

How is Prostate Cancer diagnosed?

What to know before your visit to Michigan Institute of Urology in Southeast Michigan

  • During your visit, your doctor will ask you questions regarding your medical, surgical, and family history, and perform an exam.

Other tests that may be performed during or after your visit: 

  • Lab tests will often be performed including PSA, testosterone, and urine studies.
  • Imaging is often needed after the diagnosis of prostate cancer: CT, MRI, bone scan.
  • Digital rectal exam: To get an idea of the size and condition of the prostate, your doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum and feels the prostate through the rectal wall.
  • Prostate needle biopsy (a hollow needle is used to remove tissue samples):
    • Transperineal prostate biopsy: This involves placement of an ultrasound probe in the rectum. However, instead of taking biopsies through the rectum, biopsies are taken through the skin located between the scrotum and the rectum (typically 12 biopsies are taken, but occasionally more). The procedure lasts approximately 10-15 minutes. This has been associated with lower infection rates and higher cancer detection rates.
    • Transrectal prostate biopsy: An ultrasound probe is placed into the rectum to measure the size of the prostate, provide local anesthetic, and perform biopsies of the prostate (typically 12 biopsies). The procedure lasts about five minutes.
    • MRI fusion biopsy: MRI/ultrasound fusion technology uses MRI images and targets abnormal areas that have been identified on those images. While performing the biopsy, the urologist will then have the annotated images of the MRI with the suspicious areas marked on these images available on his/her monitor. These images will then be fused with the real-time transrectal ultrasound image of the prostate. This subsequently allows an MRI-targeted sampling of suspicious areas, under ultrasound guidance.

If cancer cells are found, a pathologist studies the tissue samples under a microscope to determine the grade of the tumor. This tells how much the tumor tissue differs from normal prostate tissue. It suggests how fast the tumor is likely to grow.

Tumors with higher grades tend to grow faster than those with lower grades. They are also more likely to spread. Doctors will use your tumor grade along with your age and other factors to suggest treatment options.


Gleason Score

The most commonly used system for grading the aggressiveness of prostate cancer is the Gleason score. Gleason scores range from 2 to 10. A high Gleason score indicates a high-grade prostate tumor, which is more likely to grow quickly and spread.

The Gleason score along with the tumor stage are used to guide therapy.


Tumor Stage

The tumor stage describes how the cancer was detected and the extent of the cancer in your body. Your doctor will tell you if the cancer is:

  • Stage I: Limited to the prostate
  • Stage II: More advanced but has not spread outside the prostate
  • Stage III: Detected in organs next to the prostate, extending into the seminal vesicles (a gland behind it that helps produce semen), sphincter (muscles that control urine flow), bladder, rectum, or wall of the pelvis
  • Stage IV: Spread beyond the prostate into the lymph nodes or other organs including bones

How is Prostate Cancer treated?

Every patient is unique. Your treatment approach will depend on your personal situation.

Treatments for local growth (stages I and II) include:

  • Surgical removal of the prostate through:
    • Robotic surgery: Minimally invasive surgery is the most common surgical treatment for prostate cancer.
    • Open surgery: Prostate removal through a cut in the abdomen or an incision between the prostate and the anus.
    • Laparoscopic prostatectomy: The surgeon removes the entire prostate through small cuts, rather than a single long cut in the abdomen. A thin, lighted tube (a laparoscope) helps the surgeon see. Other instruments are passed through the small cuts. These instruments are used to remove the prostate.
    • Cryosurgery: For some men, cryosurgery is an option. The surgeon inserts a tool through a small cut between the scrotum and anus. The tool freezes and kills prostate tissue. Cryosurgery may also be used if the cancer returns following radiation therapy.
  • Radiation:
    • Stereotactic body radiation therapy: Delivers high doses of radiation in a small number of treatment sessions – five outpatient sessions on consecutive days or over a two-week period.
    • Intensity modulated radiation therapy: Computer-guided radiation is targeted at the cancer cells in daily sessions over several weeks. Uses two- and three-dimensional imaging to direct radiation and is often referred to as IMRT or IGRT.
    • Brachytherapy: Seeds containing radioactive material are inserted directly into the prostate.
  • Active surveillance: No cancer treatment is provided. Instead, urological exams, including regular PSA tests, digital rectal exams, and repeat biopsies occur within the first one to two years to monitor the progression of the cancer. Further treatment may eventually be needed if the cancer grows or spreads.


Treatment options for stages III and IV:

  • Hormone therapy: Medications block the production of testosterone, which feeds cancer cells. Without its energy source, the cancer slows and potentially shrinks.
  • Immunotherapy: Stimulates your body’s immune system to find and destroy cancer cells. This includes chemotherapy, radiation, surgical removal of the tumor, and more recently developed immunotherapies that use your body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: For patients whose cancer is not responding to other treatments.
  • Radioligand targeted therapy: This medication delivers radiation directly to cancer cells via a molecule that binds to specific cancer cell markers.
  • TURP: A man with advanced prostate cancer may choose TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate) to relieve symptoms. The surgeon inserts a long, thin scope through the urethra. A cutting tool at the end of the scope removes tissue from the inside of the prostate. TURP may not remove all of the cancer, but it can remove tissue that blocks the flow of urine.

Treatments for prostate cancer may also include medications like Xtandi, Vantas, or Eligard as directed by your physician.

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