Understanding the facts around prostate cancer

Awareness and early detection are key to beating prostate cancer. 

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men in South Africa.

The facts

* Prostate cancer develops when normal cells in the prostate become abnormal and start growing uncontrollably, forming a tumour or mass. The exact reason why normal cells become abnormal is unclear. If left untreated, these cells continue to multiply uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body.

* Prostate Cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men in South Africa.

* Prostate cancer mainly affects men over the age of 50, and your risk increases as you get older.

* Prostate cancer is rare in men under the age of 40.

* Prostate cancer is not as aggressive as other cancers. If this slow-growing cancer is diagnosed and treated and managed correctly, the survival rates are high.

The risk

* Family history: Having a father or brother with prostate cancer increases the risk.

* Age: Older age increases risk.

* Diet: Possibly an increased risk with diets high in unsaturated animal fats.

The symptoms

Prostate cancer is slow growing so it may be asymptomatic for a few years.

Key signs include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Weak or slow urination and dribbling
  • Burning urination
  • Blood in urine and semen
  • Difficulty in getting an erection
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Pain or stiffness in the lower back, thighs or hips

Many of these symptoms are also associated with a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia). If you experience any of the above symptoms, discuss those with your doctor.


* Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)

The doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum and feels the prostate through the rectal wall to check for hard or lumpy areas.

* PSA Blood test

The blood test determines the level of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). PSA is a protein specifically produced by prostate cells and an elevated level may indicate a higher chance of having cancer.

* Biopsy

Based on the outcome of the DRE and PSA level from the blood test, a biopsy is performed to confirm a prostate cancer diagnosis. During a biopsy a tissue sample is taken using a needle and examined by a pathologist.


The treatment of prostate cancer differs from patient to patient based on age, risk factors, stage of disease and grade. Options include: surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy.

* Source:

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