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What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is a malignant tumour in the prostate. There are several stages of prostate cancer. Your treatment and experience depend on the specific characteristics of the tumour and the expertise of your medical team.

The sections in this series provide general information about prostate cancer, diagnosis, and various treatment options. Discuss with your doctor what is best for your individual situation.

Most prostate cancers develop slowly and do not cause symptoms. Fast-growing prostate cancer is less common. The risk of getting prostate cancer increases with age. The average age for diagnosis of prostate cancer is 69.

Because of the development in diagnostic tools and longer life expectancy, more prostate cancers are now detected. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in elderly men in Europe. The survival rate for prostate cancer in Europe is relatively high and is still going up.

Stages of the disease

There are different stages of prostate cancer. If the tumour is limited to the prostate and has not spread, this is called localized prostate cancer. In locally-advanced prostate cancer, the tumour has grown out of the prostate into surrounding tissue such as the seminal vesicles, the bladder neck, or lymph nodes around the prostate. Doctors speak of metastatic disease if the cancer has spread either to distant lymph nodes or other organs.

The role of hormones in the prostate

A tumour develops when cells begin to grow faster than normal. The growth of prostate cancer cells is related to male sex hormones called androgens. Testosterone is the most important androgen. Androgens are almost exclusively produced in the testicles.

This information was produced by the European Association of Urology (EAU).
  • Dr. Roderick van den Bergh, Utrecht (NL)
  • Prof. Dr. Zoran Culig, Innsbruck (AT)
  • Prof. Dr. Louis Denis, Antwerp (BE)
  • Prof. Bob Djavan, Vienna (AT)
  • Mr. Enzo Federico, Trieste (IT)
  • Mr. Günter Feick, Pohlheim (DE)
  • Dr. Pirus Ghadjar, Berlin (DE)
  • Dr. Alexander Kretschmer, Munich (DE)
  • Prof. Dr. Feliksas Jankevičius, Vilnius (LTU)
  • Prof. Dr. Nicolas Mottet, Saint-Étienne (FR)
  • Dr. Bernardo Rocco, Milan (IT)
  • Ms. Maria Russo, Orbassano (IT)

This information was updated April 2019

  • Ms. Franziska Geese, Berne (CH)
  • Mrs. Louisa Fleure, London (UK)
  • Dr. Giulio Patruno, Rome (IT)
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