Peel Public Health...serving the communities of Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga

Arrow BulletProstate Cancer

What is the Prostate?

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located below the bladder in front of the rectum. It produces semen, the fluid that carries sperm from the testicles. It wraps around the urethra, the tube that carries the urine from the bladder out through the penis.

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What is Prostate Enlargement?

Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH)

As a normal part of aging, the prostate often increases in size in men over 40 years of age. This non-cancerous enlargement is called Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (B.P.H.). B.P.H. may need treatment if the prostate enlarges enough to press on the urethra, making the flow of urine slow and difficult.

Male Reproductive System
Male Reproductive System

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Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancers start in the glandular tissue of the prostate and are called adenocarcinomas.

  • Prostate Cancer is now the most common type of cancer in Canadian men over 50. It is important to learn how you can best protect yourself.
  • In most men, prostate cancer is usually slow growing and does not spread beyond the prostate itself. Most men who develop this slow growing type of prostate cancer have no symptoms.
  • Prostate cancer can also be an aggressive, fast growing tumour that in some cases spreads beyond the prostate to lymph nodes, lungs, bones and other parts of the body.

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Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Symptoms of prostate cancer may be similar to those of bacterial infection or benign enlargement of the prostate (B.P.H.):

  • difficulty starting or stopping the flow of urine, dribbling of urine
  • the urge to pass small amounts of urine frequently, especially at night
  • painful urination
  • blood or pus in the urine
  • pain in the lower back, pelvis or upper thighs
  • painful ejaculation

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Risk of Prostate Cancer

  • Risk is higher for a man whose father or brother has prostate cancer.
  • African-Canadian men have a higher risk than Caucasian men.

Risk factors being studied include:

  • High fat diet
  • Job exposure to zinc, cadmium or pesticides
  • Hormone levels
  • Sexually transmitted infections

Most evidence suggests there is no relationship between prostate cancer and vasectomy.

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Early Detection

Digital Rectal Examination

Prostate enlargement and prostate cancer can be detected during a digital rectal examination by your doctor (inserting a gloved lubricated finger in the rectum) to check the prostate for enlargement. You will be asked to lie on your side with your knees bent. You may feel the urge to pass urine or have a bowel movement. Any discomfort is minor and very brief. This exam is recommended as part of a routine yearly physical for men over 50, even when there are no symptoms.

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Prostatic Specific Antigen (PSA) Testing

Prostatic Specific Antigen (PSA) is a protein produced by prostate cells. It can be measured by a simple blood test in addition to an abnormal digital rectal examination. The use of PSA testing in men who do not have symptoms is still under study. Results can be inconclusive:

  • PSA can be elevated in prostate problems other than cancer.
  • PSA can be normal in the presence of prostate cancer.
  • For some men, PSA testing may help identify a slow growing prostate cancer that would not cause symptoms, but great anxiety once its presence is known.
  • For others, PSA testing may help to find a fast growing prostate cancer, for which early treatment saves lives.

Source: Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. (2002). Prostatic Specific Antigen Testing

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What to Do if You Notice a Change

See your doctor if you notice any change and/or difficulties in your urination.

If you're over 50…

  • Discuss routine digital rectal exam as part of your yearly physical.
  • Discuss PSA testing with your doctor.

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Related Links

For additional information on Prostate Cancer visit these web links:


United States


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