Recently Diagnosed

This section is for men who have recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer. It is your guide and explains what prostate cancer is, tests you may have to diagnose it and the treatment options available.

You may find it useful to share this information with your partner or family to help them understand more about prostate cancer. If you or those close to you would like to know more about anything you read in this section, you can contact our hotline.

What is the prostate gland?

The prostate is a sex gland found only in males. It lies at the base of the bladder, surrounding the tube called the urethra which carries urine and semen to the end of the penis. It is about the size of a walnut. A healthy prostate is essential to full sexual function, as it carries sperm and other nutrients down the urethra during orgasm. As men age, the gland becomes enlarged and can squeeze the urethra, giving a reduced urine flow. This can lead to problems with the prostate, common in older men.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Normally the growth of all cells in the body is carefully controlled. As cells die, they are replaced by new ones. Prostate cancer can develop when cells in the prostate gland start to grow in an uncontrolled way.

In most cases prostate cancer is a slow growing cancer and it may stay undiagnosed because it never causes any symptoms.

However, in some men, the cancer may grow more quickly. It sometimes causes symptoms such as problems passing urine. Sometimes the cancer spreads outside the prostate to other parts of the body. The bones are a common place for prostate cancer to spread to, and it may cause symptoms such as bone pain.

About one in nine men (11 per cent) will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives. The following factors may increase your risk of prostate cancer:

    • Age - Prostate cancer mainly affects men over the age of 50 and your risk increases with age.


    • Family history - You are two and a half times more likely to get prostate cancer if your father or brother has been diagnosed with it. You are more at risk if your relative was under the age of 60 when they were diagnosed, or if more than one close relative has prostate cancer.


    • Ethnicity - In the UK, men of black Caribbean or black African descent are three times more likely to get prostate cancer than white men.


  • Lifestyle - We do not know how to prevent prostate cancer but a healthy diet and lifestyle may be important in protecting against it.

Evidence of cancer in the prostate need not necessarily be a cause for immediate concern, as many cancers grow so slowly that they may never develop to be life-threatening. Unfortunately research is still not sufficiently advanced to predict with accuracy which cancers are slowgrowing and which are aggressive.

There is increasing evidence that prostate cancer may be not one, but at least two diseases. The indolent cancers, the ‘pussy-cats’, may only require careful monitoring, without necessarily needing any immediate radical treatment. The more aggressive ‘tigers’, however, will need active treatment, ideally before the cancer starts to spread outside the prostate and invade other areas of the body.

Facts about prostate cancer

  • Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer in men.
  • Each year in the UK over 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and about 10,500 die of it.
  • Despite earlier diagnoses of prostate cancer, the UK annual death rate remains stubbornly around 10,500.
  • If the cancer is confined within the prostate, it is generally curable, so early detection may prevent death from prostate cancer.
  • Urinary symptoms (e.g. difficulty in passing urine or frequent nighttime visits) may indicate cancer, but this is not usually the case.
  • Prostate cancer in its early stages does not normally have any symptoms.
  • Early stage disease offers a much wider choice of treatment options - more than any other cancer.
  • Once the cancer begins to spread outside the prostate, there are fewer options for treatment, though there may still be possibilities for a cure.
  • If the cancer has spread to other organs or the bones, the disease can only be controlled.