What is prostate cancer?
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis. Found only in men, it is responsible for producing seminal fluid.
Prostate cancer develops when normal, healthy cells in the prostate begin to grow and function differently. These cancerous cells can begin to build up and form a mass called a tumor, which exists as a lump inside the body and can spread.
Prostate cancer symptoms
Because early-stage prostate cancer may not show symptoms, some men may not realize there is an issue, possibly for years.
Some symptoms of prostate cancer can include:
- Frequent urination, particularly at night
- Pain or burning during urination
- Weak flow of urine
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Erectile dysfunction
- Stiffness or pain when sitting (caused by an enlarged prostate)
Having these symptoms does not mean that you have prostate cancer. However, it is important to talk to your doctor to rule out any health issues.
An enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, can cause problems with urination and is common as men age. Additionally, prostatitis is a prostate infection and the most common cause of urinary tract infections in men. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor or urologist.
Prostate cancer risk factors
Every year, nearly 1 in 9 men in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer. The causes of prostate cancer can vary. While there are some risk factors that are out of your control, others are linked to lifestyle — which means you can lower your risk:
- Age: As men age, their likelihood for developing prostate cancer increases, with most prostate cancer diagnoses occurring after age 65.
- Family history: If you’re a man whose father or brother has prostate cancer, your odds of developing the disease double. However, many men who develop prostate cancer have no family history of the disease.
- Race: African American men have a greater chance of developing prostate cancer, particularly earlier in life, compared to Caucasian men.
- Other risk factors: Other risk factors that can increase your risk of developing prostate cancer include smoking, exposure to certain chemicals, poor diet, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
Diagnosing prostate cancer
Early detection is the key to identifying cancer when it’s more easily treated and curable, including prostate cancer.
Our prostate cancer specialists are experienced in advanced detection and treating all stages of prostate cancer and have access to leading-edge technology and innovative clinical trials.
Some of the diagnostic tests your doctor may perform to test for prostate cancer include:
- Digital rectal examination – Your doctor may conduct a physical exam by inserting a gloved finger into your rectum to search for abnormalities in the prostate or other health concerns.
- Prostate-specific antigen test – This simple blood test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in your blood, a substance naturally produced by your prostate gland and found in small amounts. Elevated levels can be an early sign of prostate cancer.
- Imaging tests – Imaging tests, such as MRIs, computed tomography (CT) scans or PET scans, are used to produce detailed pictures of the inside of your prostate. These types of diagnostic tests can be used to discover possible tumors, detect if a tumor has spread and evaluate whether treatment is working.
- Genetic tumor testing – Genetics play a role in certain types of cancers, including prostate cancer. For men with a family history of prostate cancer, genetic testing may be recommended to look for an increased risk. Additionally, Geisinger has one of the largest teams of genetic counselors in the country. Genetic counselors help patients understand their risks and their options for prevention and treatment,
- Biopsy – Geisinger is one of the few centers in Pennsylvania to offer a newer technology called an MRI fusion biopsy. This technology is the most advanced and accurate method to detect prostate cancer. First, you'll undergo a traditional MRI which will be reviewed by our radiology team. Next, your doctor will perform the MRI fusion biopsy in one of our surgical suites.
During the biopsy, your doctor will examine your prostate using an ultrasound wand guided through your rectum. Real-time ultrasound images will be taken and fused with the images taken from the previous MRI. This technology offers more accurate imaging and helps pinpoint the precise location needed for biopsy.
Next, your doctor will remove a small sample of tissue to detect whether it contains cancerous cells (also called malignant cells). The tissue will be removed using a thin needle or during a surgical procedure and will be further examined beneath a microscope.
If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you may be feeling overwhelmed and have questions about your treatment options. Finding the treatment that’s right for you is a personal choice, with many factors to consider.
We offer second opinions to help determine your best path forward. Our prostate cancer specialists, which includes medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and urologists, will offer their expertise and discuss personalized care plans and advanced treatment options with you.
Prostate cancer treatment
Cancer is unique to each person, which is why Geisinger’s cancer care team gets to know you along your journey. While some of our cancer specialists are trained in treating specific cancers, our entire team works together to help you fight your cancer — every step of the way.
Treatment for prostate cancer depends on its type, location and stage. Read about prostate cancer treatment options at Geisinger.
To treat prostate cancer, we offer robotic surgery — a precise, minimally invasive procedure. Robotic prostate surgery requires smaller incisions, which means less pain and faster recovery, so you can get back to your normal life. Our surgeons have performed more than 2,000 robotic urological surgery procedures — more than any other healthcare provider in the region. We routinely perform complex procedures that are often unavailable elsewhere in the area, including robotic prostatectomies for prostate cancer.
Radiation oncology uses radiation to control or destroy harmful cancer cells, with tools to treat each unique cancer.
Our board-certified cancer doctors and highly skilled clinical team deliver conventional radiotherapy treatments that include:
- External beam radiation, which uses special technology to send X-ray radiation (photons) to the tumor from outside the body
- Internal radiation (brachytherapy), which targets the tumor using safe levels of radiation inside the body through radioactive tubes or radioactive seeds
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which uses a 3D image of the tumor to deliver high-precision radiotherapy that fits its exact outline
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), which is used to localize the radiation beam daily and treat cancers in areas of the body that move during and between treatments. This includes Cone Beam CT scans to accurately view the tumor and target it during treatment.
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), which uses precise conformal beams of radiation to focus high doses of radiation to just the tumor, with very little damage to surrounding healthy tissues
We also offer SpaceOAR® Hydrogel treatment, a new technology that helps prostate cancer patients experience less side effects from radiation treatment. By protecting the rectum from radiation exposure, the nontoxic gel injection acts as a barrier between the prostate and the rectum.
CyberKnife® robotic radiosurgery is a non-invasive treatment for tumors that are hard to reach or inoperable. This robotic therapy targets complex tumors — including cancerous and non-cancerous tumors — by delivering high doses of targeted radiation safely, anywhere in the body. And it’s offered at the Frank M. and Dorothea Henry Cancer Center at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre.
No incisions involved. So you have quicker treatments, less pain and faster recovery. Learn more about CyberKnife.
In addition to conventional treatments of surgery, radiation, hormonal therapy and chemotherapy, immunotherapy may be an option for those with advanced prostate cancer. This newer, innovative treatment uses biological drugs that work with your body’s immune system to fight the cancer in a targeted way, many times without chemotherapy or radiation.
Prostate cancer care at Geisinger
- Unmatched expertise – Our cancer team consists of surgeons, doctors and specialists, many of whom are fellowship trained. This team of highly trained specialists treats many patients with prostate cancer and other cancers each year, and is focused on delivering the most personalized, excellent care that is suited to each patient’s needs.
- Multidisciplinary care team – Those diagnosed with cancer have the opportunity to work with our experienced multidisciplinary care team, a multi-physician team that comes together to create a personalized treatment plan for each patient. This will enable you to see your care team in one location, all during the same visit.
- World-class care, close to home – With many locations throughout northeast and central Pennsylvania, our experienced cancer team provides consultations and comprehensive care. We offer leading-edge treatment options and tailored-to-you care backed by the expertise and innovation of a nationally recognized health system.
- Comprehensive specialty care – From chemotherapy, radiation and minimally invasive surgery options to national clinical trials and genetic testing, our prostate cancer specialists are dedicated to offering innovative treatment options and personalized care in convenient locations, so you don’t have to travel far. We’ll work with you to develop a personalized prostate cancer care plan based on your individual needs.
- A commitment to research – Our oncologists are members of the Pennsylvania Urology Regional Collaborative, a statewide prostate cancer quality database dedicated to providing the highest-quality care for prostate cancer patients. This group serves as leaders for initiating improvements in prostate cancer care.
- Genetic testing and counseling programs – Special research programs such as MyCode® are only available at Geisinger. Participating in MyCode allows you to contribute to genetic research. By participating, some may receive information about their own genetic risks. Learn about MyCode.
- Survivorship program– Just because your treatment is complete doesn’t mean your journey is over. We offer a variety of support resources focused on helping you live your healthiest life. Learn about patient resources.