Prostate cancer (prostate carcinoma) is a malignant disease that affects the prostate (prostate gland). It primarily affects men over the age of 50. With increasing age, the greater the probability of developing prostate cancer. The treatment depends on how far the prostate cancer has progressed and the patient’s age. Given that prostate cancer usually grows very slowly, men diagnosed at the age of 70 or older frequently do not need any treatment.
Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among men and the second most deadly (after lung cancer). It primarily develops in men over the age of 50. The cancer usually grows very slowly. If it is detected early, it can often still be cured.
The prostate (prostate gland) is located below the bladder and surrounds the urethra. The gland produces a secretion that is expelled together with sperm during ejaculation. As men grow older, their prostate often becomes enlarged. This benign prostate enlargement results in similar symptoms to those caused by prostate cancer, but it should not be confused with cancer.
Cross-sectional view of a prostate
The exact reasons why prostate cancer develops are still largely unknown. Men with a family history of prostate cancer (among first-degree relatives) have an increased risk of developing the disease. There is also evidence that consuming large amounts of meat can increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer does not cause any symptoms for a long time. At most, men may experience reduced urine flow, a more frequent need to urinate or pain during urination. However, such symptoms are very frequently just caused by a benign enlargement of the prostate.
Regular check-ups are recommended for men aged 50 and over to detect prostate cancer early. This examination involves a blood test to measure the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and a rectal examination of the prostate.
If there are signs of prostate cancer (heightened PSA and enlarged prostate), it can be diagnosed with a prostate biopsy. If the tissue examination (biopsy) confirms the cancer diagnosis, further examinations such as a computed tomography (CT) scan are carried out.
The treatment of prostate cancer varies from person to person and depends on the size of the tumour, the stage of the cancer and patient’s age.
Small tumours that have not yet spread beyond the prostate are often just actively monitored. That way, surgery can often be delayed for many years without affecting the patient’s chances of survival.
An operation is required if the tumour starts to grow into the surrounding tissue, or it is an aggressive, rapidly growing tumour. Thanks to modern surgical procedures, complications that can occur after the operation – such as erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence – have become less frequent.
You can find out more about the surgical treatment options in the prostate surgery section. Prostate tumours that have already formed other tumours (metastasised) or grown into the surrounding tissue can be treated with radiotherapy , chemotherapy or anti-hormone therapy.