Clinical guidance

Prostate Cancer Q&A

Published September 29, 2022

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As men and other people with prostates age, their chance of getting prostate cancer grows. But prostate cancer screening has pros and cons, so talk to your provider about whether testing is right for you.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is when cells in the prostate, a part of the reproductive system for people assigned male sex at birth, grow out of control. Not including skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men and other people with prostates in the U.S. But most prostate cancers grow slowly or not at all.

What causes prostate cancer?

We don’t know for sure, but you’re at higher risk for it if you’re African American or you have a father, son, or brother who had prostate cancer.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Most people don’t have any symptoms, but some do.

If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor right away:

  • Difficulty starting to pee
  • Weak or interrupted flow of peeing
  • Peeing often, especially at night
  • Trouble getting all the pee out of your body
  • Pain or burning while peeing
  • Blood in the pee or semen
  • Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away
  • Pain when you ejaculate (orgasm)

What is the test for prostate cancer?

The most common prostate cancer screening, which some people ages 55 to 69 choose to get, is called a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. The PSA test measures the level of PSA, a substance made by the prostate, in a person’s blood. Levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer, but other things — like age or certain medicines — can affect PSA levels too.

If the PSA test is abnormal, your provider will probably recommend a biopsy (removing tissue or cells from your body for testing) to find out if you have prostate cancer.

Should I get tested for prostate cancer?

That’s a decision for you to make along with your healthcare provider. Before deciding, it’s important to understand and think through the pros and cons of screening.


  • You might find prostate cancer that’s at high risk of spreading. If that’s the case, you could treat it before it spreads. (But keep in mind: Most prostate cancers grow slowly or not at all.)
  • Some people want to know if they have prostate cancer.


  • You might get a false positive test result, meaning the test shows your PSA level is abnormal but you don’t actually have prostate cancer.
  • If you test positive, you’ll likely have a biopsy to see if you actually have prostate cancer. A biopsy can sometimes cause pain, blood in the semen, or infection.
  • Some prostate cancer treatments can cause urinary incontinence (accidental peeing), impotence, and problems pooping.

If you get diagnosed with prostate cancer, your provider can closely monitor it over time to see if it grows instead of treating it right away. (This is called active surveillance.)

  1. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (July 17, 2023). Basic Information About Prostate Cancer.