What do you need to know about prostate cancer

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer begins when abnormal cells in the prostate start growing in an uncontrolled way. In most cases, prostate cancer grows more slowly than other types of cancer. This might mean that you do not need treatment straightaway (see pages 26–27). However, some prostate cancers can grow and spread quickly, so it is important to investigate any symptoms or unusual test results promptly.

How common is it?

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Australian men (apart from common skin cancers). There are about 18,000 new cases in Australia every year.3One in six men in Australia are at risk of developing prostate cancer by the age of 85. The risk of prostate cancer increases with age. It is uncommon in men younger than 50, although the risk is higher for younger men with a strong family history of prostate cancer, breast cancer or ovarian cancer, than for those without a family history.

What are the symptoms?

Early prostate cancer rarely causes symptoms. Even when prostate cancer is advanced at the time of diagnosis, there may be no symptoms. Where symptoms do occur, they are often due to non-cancerous conditions, such as benign prostate hyperplasia (see facing page). Symptoms of advanced prostate cancer may include:

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