Prostate cancer

Note: The information on cancer types on the ACRF website is not designed to provide medical or professional advice and is for information only. If you have any health problems or questions please consult your doctor. All statistics have been sourced from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Prostate Cancer Statistics

  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian men
  • The risk of developing prostate cancer before the age of 85 is 1 in 5
  • The five-year survival rate is 92 per cent
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Prostate Cancer Overview

Prostate cancer develops in the walnut-sized prostate gland that makes and stores seminal fluid, a milky liquid that nourishes sperm.

The prostate gland helps regulate bladder control and normal sexual functioning. Prostate cancer develops when the cells in the prostate gland grow more quickly than they should, forming a malignant lump or tumour. Most prostate cancers grow slowly in comparison to other cancers and while the causes are unknown, fatty acids are believed to play a role.

The chance of developing prostate cancer increases with age, and if your father or brother have had the disease.

Occurring mainly in men over 65, prostate cancer affects more Australian men than any other type of cancer.

There are four main disorders of the prostate:


Prostatitis is a benign condition. It is caused by inflammation (swelling) of the prostate and is not cancerous. It can cause discomfort deep inside the pelvis – mostly when passing urine or with ejaculation though pain can also persist outside of these functions. If caused by an infection it may be treated with antibiotics.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) or enlargement (BHE) is quite common in older men. It is a benign condition.. Some enlargement of the prostate is usual in most men from age 50 onwards. Therefore, although BHP is quite common – though not life threatening- it may need to be treated. Treatment of BPH may require antibiotics, or, in more developed cases, an operation to widen the urethral passage.


Prostatodynia is a long standing or chronic prostate disease, it also not cancerous. There are usually no clear signs of infection or inflammation but there may be pain or discomfort in the pelvic region. Treatments include antibiotics, non –steroid anti-inflammatory agents, muscle relaxants and sometimes medications for chronic pain.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the only one of the four disorders that is potentially life-threatening. One of the most worrying aspects is that many prostate cancers develop without men experiencing any symptoms. Unlike BPH, prostate cancer cells eventually break out of the prostate and invade distant parts of the body, particularly the bones and lymph nodes, producing secondary tumours, a process known as metastasis.

Prostate Cancer Symptoms

  • Waking frequently at night to urinate
  • Difficulty in starting to urinate
  • Sudden or urgent need to urinate
  • Reduced ability to get an erection
  • Slow flow of urine and difficulty in stopping
  • Discomfort when urinating
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Decrease in libido

If you experience any of the above symptoms you should consult a doctor without delay. Although many of these symptoms could be caused by conditions other than prostate cancer, it is important to have them checked and monitored. Early expert diagnosis and treatment is important in prostate cancer.

Prostate Cancer Treatment

There are many treatments available for localised prostate cancer. Options include:

  • Active surveillance (watchful waiting)
  • Surgery
  • Radiation including conformal external beam radiotherapy, brachytherapy with seeds and high dose rate brachytherapy
  • High intensity focused ultrasound
  • Hormone therapy.

Surgery with curative intent removes the whole prostate (radical prostatectomy). The main side-effects are impotence and incontinence.

Radical radiotherapy can also be given with curative outcomes, either with external radiation or by implanting radioactive seeds (brachytherapy). Side-effects are similar to surgery, however bowel problems may also occur.

If the cancer has spread, hormone therapy reduces the stimulus of the male hormones. Removing the testis or injecting luteinising hormone releasing hormone (LHRH), or anti-androgen hormones, can delay the disease for three to four years and may improve outcomes if given early with radiation in high risk patients. When hormone resistance occurs, chemotherapy mixed with certain medications can control symptoms.

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