Prostate cancer: Causes, symptoms, treatment, outlook and complications

The exact cause of cell mutations that lead to prostate cancer is not yet known, but factors like age and race can contribute to its development.

Doctor teaching a man about prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is a cancer that affects the prostate and is common among older adults. Like other types of cancer, prostate cancer develops over time, which explains why it is usually diagnosed at later stages, when it is more difficult to treat.

However, prostate cancer causes some symptoms, like painful urination, blood in the semen, and unexplained weight loss, which are all signs that indicate that a person needs medical care.

In this article, we will discuss all about prostate cancer, including its causes, symptoms, treatment, and diagnosis. We will also discuss the risk factors and complications of prostate cancer.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is cancer that affects the prostate. Prostate cancer develops when the cells in the prostate gland begin to grow uncontrollably.

The prostate is an internal organ in the male reproductive system located directly under the bladder. The main role of the prostate is the production of seminal fluid. It also helps to regulate the flow of urine and the production of hormones.

The prostate is smooth and soft, but you cannot see it. To feel your prostate, you can place your finger in your rectum and press it towards the front of your body. During an examination, your doctor can feel the prostate by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum.

How common is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer that affects people with penises, following skin cancer. It is, however, the most common cancer in Black people with prostate.

According to a 2019 study, 1 in 350 men below the age of 50 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, 1 in 52 men between the ages of 50 and 59 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and for those over 65, the rate is nearly 6 in 10.

Who does it affect?

Prostate cancer is common in people with prostate and can affect any of them. However, the risk and chances of developing it increase with age. Prostate cancer is more common in men who are over 55 years of age.

Furthermore, black men are more likely than other races to develop prostate cancer, and people with obesity and a family history of prostate cancer are at a higher risk as well.

Causes of prostate cancer

Like most other types of cancer, the causes of prostate cancer are not yet known. However, scientists know that prostate cancer develops when there is a change in the DNA of prostate cells.

DNA divides normally for healthy cells, but once there is a mutation (change), it starts to divide abnormally and quickly. Normally, cells carry out their normal activity and die off when due, but in the case of malignant cells, they divide and grow until they form a tumor (cancer).

Exposure to high doses of radiation, certain chemicals, and toxins may also play a role in the development of cancer.

Symptoms of prostate cancer

In the early stages, prostate cancer may not present any symptoms. This is common with most types of cancer, which is why most cancers progress to a critical stage before being diagnosed. However, in the later or more advanced stages of prostate cancer, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Painful urination or difficulty urinating
  • Blood in your semen
  • Pains in your back, hip, or other bones.
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Pain in your rectum

Risk factors for prostate cancer

All men are at risk of developing prostate cancer, but the following risk factors will increase your chances of developing prostate cancer:

1. Age

Age is the commonest risk factor associated with prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is more common in men who are 65 years and older. Men between 60 and 79 have a 13.7% chance of developing prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is rarely found in men below the age of 40. This indicates that the chances of developing prostate cancer increase with age.

2. Family History

Family history is another strong risk factor for prostate cancer. Cancers are due to mutations in certain genes. For prostate cancer, some of the mutations that cause the cancer are inherited.

So, if a person has a family history of prostate cancer, there are chances they may develop the condition at some point in their lives.

3. Race and Ethnic background

For unclear reasons, Africans are more prone to cancer than other races and ethnic regions. Because they are more prone to cancer, they also have higher prostate cancer fatality rates than whites. The real reason for this is not yet known.

Complications of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer can cause some complications, including:

It can spread to other organs or parts of the body

Cancer metastasis (spreading of cancer) is common with any type of cancer. Prostate cancer can spread to other organs, like the bladder.

It can also spread to the bones and distant organs by traveling through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Prostate cancer that spreads to other organs will be difficult to cure.

Also, when it spreads to the bones, it can cause pain and make the bones break. So, it is a big risk when prostate cancer spreads to other organs and parts of the body because of the damage it will cause.

Prostate cancer may cause erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is one of the possible complications of prostate cancer. This is because the nerves responsible for erection are located close to the prostate glands, and the various treatments used for prostate cancer, like radiation, surgery, and hormone treatments, can damage the nerves. When the nerves are damaged, it will be difficult to achieve or maintain an erection.

Prostate cancer can cause urinary incontinence

Prostate cancer and the treatment of prostate cancer can cause urinary incontinence over time. Anyone with urinary incontinence will have problems controlling their bladder. The major cause of this is damage to the nerves controlling urinary function.

Prostate cancer outlook

Compared to before, people with prostate cancer now have a higher chance of living longer after diagnosis. Statistics by the American Cancer Society show that prostate cancer that hasn't spread to other parts or regions of the body has a 5-year relative survival rate of more than 99%.

There are also chances of avoiding complications and risks of prostate cancer, such as urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

Often, prostate cancer grows slowly and can be harmless in the early stages. Due to the slow growth, there is the option of active surveillance or a watchful waiting strategy.

With this plan, doctors can keep an eye on the progress of prostate cancer and treat any problems that come up, such as urinary incontinence and trouble getting an erection. They can do this using blood tests and other exams.

How to prevent prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is common in men, and there is no foolproof way to prevent it. However, some lifestyle modifications can minimize the risk of developing it. The lifestyle changes include:

1. Eat healthy diets

In general, healthy diets improve health and lifestyle. Even though the link between a healthy diet and prostate cancer hasn't been fully proven, eating healthy may help improve the health of the prostate.

To improve your diet, you should eat more healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids and less trans and saturated fat. Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from seeds, fish, and nuts.

Also, eat more fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermelon, and red foods. They have been found to contain lycopene, which has anticancer, antioxidant, cardioprotective, and neuroprotective properties.

Avoid fried or grilled meat, especially the ones prepared at high temperatures, alcohol and ultra-processed canned foods. Such foods do not support prostate health.

2. Be consistent with your exercises

Studies have shown that exercise can improve your immune function and fight inflammation. So, regular exercise can be a good way to reduce the risk of cancer.

3. Avoid smoking and alcohol

Smoking can cause many bad health conditions, contributing to cancer. When you quit smoking and reduce your intake of alcohol, you will increase your chances of having a healthy life.

4. Take enough vitamin D

Vitamin D is good for the body and can help keep you healthy for a long time. You can get vitamin D through exposure to the sun and some foods, like cod liver oil.

When to contact a doctor

Most times, prostate cancer does not spread quickly. It often takes years to manifest. But if you start to have any of the signs of prostate cancer listed in this article, you should contact a doctor. Feel free to ask your doctor questions about prostate cancer.

Also, prostate cancer is more common in men aged 50 and above. However, those between the ages of 30 and 40 should still see their doctors if they notice any symptoms.

It is advisable to go for regular screening for prostate cancer. Due to the fact that prostate cancer takes time to develop, regular screening will aid in early detection and prostate cancer treatment.

Also, if you have a family history of prostate cancer, you should get a regular screening by visiting your doctor. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of getting a prostate cancer vaccine such as Provenge.


Most of the time, prostate cancer is detected in its later stages, but you can avoid this by getting screened regularly. Like other types of cancer, the causes of prostate cancer are not yet known, but some factors can contribute to its early onset.

While you have little or no control over factors like age and genetics, you can reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer by adopting a healthy lifestyle and avoiding contributing factors like radiation and chemicals.