Genetic Epidemiology

University of Utah

Prostate Cancer

Over 184,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States this year. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in males and the second highest cancer killer in men (lung cancer is first).

The prostate is a male sex gland about the size of a walnut. It is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum. Although prostate cancer is common, the progression of the disease varies greatly. Some prostate cancers grow and spread quickly, while others are slow growing and individuals only experience symptoms decades after a growth appears, if ever. When prostate cancer is diagnosed in its early stages, there is a high survival rate.

Risk factors include a high fat diet and a family history. Some symptoms are changes in urinary habits - especially a need to urinate more often at night, difficulty starting and stopping urine flow, irregular urine flow, dripping that leaves spots on clothing, painful urination, painful ejaculation, blood or pus in urine, pain in the testes, pain or swelling in the pelvic region, back pain, fever or chills.

The American Cancer Society recommends two tests for the detection of prostate cancer. These are the PSA test and digital rectal exam. The PSA test is a blood test that measures the amount of a protein in your blood. If there were a problem with your prostate, the amount of the protein found in your blood would usually exceed normal levels. See the American Cancer Society recommendations for the PSA test. The PSA test is specific to the prostate but not to prostate cancer. The test can pick up other problems or abnormalities in the prostate, which are also treatable.

It is important to have a digital rectal exam in addition to the PSA test. In a digital rectal exam, the doctor feels the prostate to check for hard or lumpy areas. Obviously not the most comfortable test, the rectal exam is an important procedure. Your doctor may order other tests before determining if you need a biopsy. Always consult your personal physician about how regularly you should have a PSA test and digital rectal exam. Make sure your physician knows about your family’s medical history.

The Utah Chapter of the American Cancer Society offers a Prostate Cancer Support Group which meets monthly. The sessions begin with an informative speaker followed by time for questions and discussion. Each session begins at 7:00 p.m. at the chapter offices at 941 East 3300 South in Salt Lake City. There is no charge for the support group and is open to patients, survivors, family members and friends. For more information, call (801) 483-1500 or (800) ACS-2345. 

Our prostate cancer study is currently our most promising study.  We are actively recruiting for this study.  If at least three people in your family have been clinically diagnosed with prostate cancer, then you qualify to participate. Participation is free and includes:

 A blood sample

 A questionnaire

 A PSA test for men over 40 years of age

For more information about prostate cancer, please visit the Medically Related Links webpage. 

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1/4/2000