Prostate cancer

Last updated:

Reviewed by:

Dr Bryony Henderson

, Lead GP at Livi

Medically reviewed

Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate gland – the gland that helps to make semen. Find out more about the signs and how it’s diagnosed and treated.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate. This is a gland that helps make semen, it’s the size and shape of a walnut and found about 2 inches inside the bottom. 

It’s the most common male cancer in the UK, although it often grows very slowly and usually doesn’t spread beyond the prostate gland. 

However, some cases can grow more quickly and aggressively, so early detection is the most effective way to treat prostate cancer.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

As prostate cancer tends to develop slowly, it’s common for men to have no signs for many years. The symptoms usually develop when the prostate gets so enlarged that it affects the urethra (the tube that empties pee from your bladder and out of your body). However, these symptoms can, more commonly, be caused by benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). 

Some of the most common prostate cancer symptoms include:

  • Needing to pee more often or more urgently

  • Getting up to pee more regularly at night

  • Difficulty passing pee – like problems fully emptying your bladder or feeling like it’s not fully emptied

  • Blood in your pee or semen

What causes prostate cancer?

The exact cause of prostate cancer isn’t known, but the following factors can increase your risk of developing it:

  • Age – it’s more likely to affect men aged 50 and over

  • Ethnicity – men of African-Caribbean or African descent are at a higher risk of prostate cancer, while Asian men are at a lower risk

  • Family history – if a close relative (like your father or brother) has had prostate cancer 

  • Obesity – experts have found that obesity can put you at a higher risk of developing more aggressive prostate cancer and may increase your chances of the cancer returning

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

The doctor will start by looking at your medical history and your symptoms and doing a physical examination. This might include a prostate exam, where the doctor inserts a gloved finger into your bottom. This can feel uncomfortable, but it will only take a minute or two.

The doctor might also take a blood test to see if you have high levels of a protein called PSA in your blood, which can be a sign of cancer. 

If the doctor thinks it’s prostate cancer, you’ll be referred for further tests. There’s no definitive test to diagnose prostate cancer, but there are several tests that specialists may recommend. These include:

  • mpMRI – a special MRI scan that gives doctors a more detailed image than an ordinary MRI and helps them to see if there is cancer in the prostate and how likely it is to grow

  • Biopsy – a tissue sample is taken from your prostate and then analysed under a microscope


There are different types of treatment for prostate cancer, and the treatment you’re offered will depend on how big your cancer is, where it is and whether it’s spread to other parts of your body.

If the cancer is found early on, and you’re in good health, it might not be necessary to have any treatment to start with. 

Doctors might suggest ‘watchful waiting’ where they continue to monitor your condition and the size of your cancer but don’t give any treatment.

Other types of prostate cancer treatment include:

  • Surgery – to surgically remove part or all the prostate

  • Hormone therapy – the hormone testosterone helps prostate cancer to grow, so hormone therapy can be used to lower the levels of testosterone in your body

  • Radiotherapy – using high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells, this can be used on its own or alongside hormone therapy

What are the complications of prostate cancer?

Many men have prostate cancer for years with little or no symptoms, and its effect on their life is minimal. But for some, it can be more aggressive and have a greater impact on daily life.

Sometimes, other complications can develop because of prostate cancer, including:

  • Erection problems – talk to your doctor if you experience problems getting or keeping an erection (erectile dysfunction) – they will be able to suggest a range of treatment options.

  • Urinary incontinence – this is a common problem where you lose control of your bladder and pass urine when you don’t mean to. A doctor will be able to suggest treatment to help.

When should I speak to a doctor about prostate cancer?

If you have any of the symptoms above, then make an appointment to speak to a doctor.

Always see a doctor if:

  • You have blood in your pee 

  • Peeing is painful

What can Livi do?

Livi’s healthcare professionals can help to talk through your symptoms and refer you for further tests if they suspect you may have prostate cancer. 

Last updated:
Reviewed by:
Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi