Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. Over 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. Over 250,000 men are currently living with the disease.
Normally the growth of all cells is carefully controlled in the body. As cells die, they are replaced in an orderly fashion. Cancer can develop when cells start to grow in an uncontrolled way. If this happens in the prostate gland, prostate cancer can develop.
Prostate cancer often grows slowly and has a low risk of spreading, so it may never cause you any symptoms or problems in your lifetime. In other words, it’s often not life-threatening. Because of this, slow-growing prostate cancer might not need to be treated. You might be able to have your cancer monitored with regular check-ups instead.
But some men will have cancer that is faster growing and has a higher risk of spreading. This needs treatment to stop it spreading outside the prostate.
Signs and symptoms
This information comes from our booklet 'Know your prostate: a guide to common prostate problems'.
You can order printed publications about the prostate gland and prostate cancer from our publications page.
Prostate cancer can grow slowly or very quickly. Most prostate cancer is slow-growing to start with and may never cause any symptoms or problems in a man's lifetime. However, some men will have cancer that is more aggressive or 'high risk.' This needs treatment to help prevent or delay it spreading outside the prostate gland.
If a man does have symptoms, such as problems urinating, they might be mild and happen over many years. For some men the first noticeable symptoms are from prostate cancer which has spread to their bones. If this happens, you may notice pain in your back, hips or pelvis that was not there before. These symptoms could be caused by other problems such as general aches and pains or arthritis, but it is still a good idea to get them checked out by your GP if you are worried.
Most men with early prostate cancer do not have any symptoms.
Facts and figures
Below are some of the very basic facts and figures about prostate cancer.
ISD Scotland. Prostate Cancer. NHS Board Area of Residence: trends in mortality 1988-2013 [Internet]. 2014. Available from: https://isdscotland.scot.nhs.uk/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications/2014-10-28/m_cancer_male_genital_organs.xls
ISD Scotland. Trends in Cancer Survival 1983-2007 [Internet]. 2010. Available from: https://isdscotland.scot.nhs.uk/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications/2010-08-31/s_cancer_prostate.xls?90642423
National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), UK Cancer Information Service (UKCIS). One, Five and Ten Year Cancer Prevalence by Cancer Network, UK, 2006 [Internet]. 2010. Available from: http://www.ncin.org.uk/view?rid=76
National Cancer Intelligence Network. Cancer mortality, males, ICD10 C61 : Prostate, 2009-2011 [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2013 Aug 20]. Available from: http://www.ncin.org.uk/cancer_information_tools/eatlas/
National Cancer Intelligence Network. Cancer survival in England by stage and age 2012 [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2014 Sep 2]. Available from: http://www.ncin.org.uk/publications/survival_by_stage
National Cancer Intelligence Network. Treatment Routes in Prostate Cancer Urological Cancers SSCRG [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2013 Jun 14]. Available from: http://www.ncin.org.uk/view?rid=1260
National Cancer Registry Ireland. Prostate cancer 5 year survival. Ireland. 2008-2010 [Internet]. 2014. Available from: http://www.ncri.ie/data/survival-statistics
Office for National Statistics. Death Registrations Summary Tables, England and Wales (2011-2013) [Internet]. Office for National Statistics. 2014 [cited 2014 Aug 27]. Available from: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/death-reg-sum-tables/2013/index.html
Public Health England. Incidence of prostate cancer by CCG (England) 2010-2012. 2014.
Quality Health for Prostate Cancer UK. The Views of Prostate Cancer Patients in Scotland. Sample size for quantitative survey was 225 Scottish men with prostate cancer. Sample size for in-depth interviews was 12 Scottish men with prostate cancer. Fieldwork was undertaken between February 2013 and May 2013. 2013.
Quality Health. Wales Cancer Patient Experience Survey: National Report [Internet]. 2014. Available from: http://www.quality-health.co.uk/resources/surveys/welsh-cancer-experience-survey/2013-welsh-cancer-eperience-survey/wales-cancer-patient-experience-reports-english-language-versions/527-wales-cancer-patient-experience-survey-national-report-2013/file
Unit WCI and S. Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit - Recent Reports and Publications [Internet]. [cited 2014 Nov 11]. Available from: http://www.wcisu.wales.nhs.uk/recent-reports-and-publications-2010-onw
YouGov for Prostate Cancer UK. Sample size 2864 adults. Online survey carried out between 13 Jan-4 Feb 2014. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+). [Internet]. 2014. Available from: http://prostatecanceruk.org/public-awareness.