Finding and treating prostate cancer.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Learn how to find and treat this common cancer.

by Nashville General Hospital
Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

The prostate is a small gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It surrounds part of the urethra – the tube that passes urine from the bladder to out of the body. As men age, the prostate may grow larger. Because the symptoms of an enlarged prostate are similar to those of prostate cancer, it is important to see a medical professional if you experience:

  • Trouble passing urine.
  • Frequent urge to urinate, especially at night.
  • Weak or interrupted urine stream.
  • Pain or burning when passing urine.
  • Blood in urine or semen.
  • Painful ejaculation.
  • Nagging pain in the back, hips or pelvis.

Finding prostate cancer.

There are several ways to test for prostate cancer. These include:

  • Digital rectal exam (DRE): The standard way to check the prostate takes about 10-15 seconds. The doctor uses a gloved, lubricated finger to feel the prostate from the rectum. This exam checks only one side of the prostate and screens for hard areas, lumps, or growths that have spread beyond the prostate. The doctor will also try to detect any pain caused by touching or pressing the prostate.
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test: For men age 50 and older, the doctor may do a blood test to detect the levels of PSA, a protein made by prostate cells. High levels of PSA may indicate prostate cancer.

Further tests for prostate cancer may include an ultrasound image or MRI to create pictures of the prostate. Additionally, the doctor may perform a biopsy to sample the prostate for cancer cells.

Understand PSA test results.

Many factors can influence the amount of PSA in the blood. For example, riding a bicycle or motorcycle, having a digital rectal exam, an orgasm within the past 24 hours, a prostate biopsy, or prostate surgery may also increase PSA levels.

Some men naturally produce more PSA than others. For example, African-American men tend to have higher PSA levels, in general, than men of other races. PSA levels can also go up with age. 

Because PSA levels can be influenced by many things, the doctor may schedule a series of tests and monitor the results over a period of time to watch for any changes or rapid increases. 

Treating prostate cancer.

In general, prostate cancer grows slowly and less aggressively than other types of cancer. This makes the long-term prognosis and survival rate for prostate cancer very encouraging with a more than 98% survival rate ten years after diagnosis.

Depending on their circumstances and the rate at which prostate cancer grows, some men diagnosed with prostate cancer may decline treatment. Factors such as age, life expectancy, other health conditions, and anticipated success of treatment, may cause a patient and their doctor to decide not to treat it or that treatment will cause complications that are greater than living with the cancer.

There are several options for men who choose to have treatment. These include:

  • Observation: Keeping a watchful eye on the disease to see if there are any changes.
  • Surgery: Removing the prostate gland.
  • Radiation: Using high-energy rays to kill the cancer.

Depending on whether the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, the doctor may recommend other types of treatments.

If you have questions regarding your prostate or other urological diseases and conditions contact a urology specialist at the Nashville Healthcare Center. Learn more at the urology website or call 615-341-4227 

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should talk with your primary care physician or other qualified medical professionals regarding diagnosis and treatment of a health condition.


  1., “Prostate Cancer”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 17, 2023
  2., “Prostate Cancer – Patient Version”, National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, August 2023