The prostate is a small gland in the pelvis that is found only in men. About the size of a walnut, it is located between the penis and the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis.
The main function of the prostate is to help in the production of semen.
Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cells within the prostate grow in an uncontrolled way. It is the most common non-skin cancer in men and the chances of developing this type of cancer increase with age. The symptoms don't usually appear until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the urethra and can include:
- feeling the frequent or sudden need to urinate
- finding it difficult to urinate (for example, trouble starting or not being able to urinate when the feeling is there or poor urine flow)
- discomfort when urinating
- finding blood in urine or semen
- pain in the lower back, upper thighs or hips
These symptoms should be investigated by your doctor, but they don't mean you have prostate cancer. Many men's prostates get larger as they get older due to a condition known as 'benign prostatic hyperplasia' or prostate enlargement, and this can cause these symptoms too.
The outlook for prostate cancer is generally good because it usually progresses very slowly. A man can live for decades without having any symptoms or needing any treatment.
The prognosis is often very good if the cancer is detected in its early stages. Treatments include removing the prostate, hormone therapy (medication) and radiotherapy (using radiation to kill the cancerous cells).
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: August 2018