Frequently Asked Questions about Prostate Cancer

I have prostate cancer. What treatment is the best?

What is prostate cancer?

What is nerve-sparing surgery?

Do I have cancer if my prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level is elevated?

What is a "percentage-free PSA?"

What is a prostate biopsy and is it painful?

If I am diagnosed with prostate cancer, what other tests do I need to undergo?

How serious is prostate cancer?


I have prostate cancer. What treatment is the best?

The right treatment for your prostate cancer depends on the stage of cancer, your current medical condition, your prior medical history and your personal opinions and concerns. Meeting with our Fox Chase Cancer Center physicians will allow an overall assessment to help guide you to the appropriate treatment that balances all of these important issues.

What is prostate cancer?

The prostate is a gland found in men. It is the size of a walnut and sits just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The tube that carries urine (the urethra) runs through the prostate. The prostate contains cells that make some of the seminal fluid. This fluid protects and nourishes the sperm.

What is nerve-sparing surgery?

There are two bundles of nerves that surround the prostate. These nerves are responsible for erections. During the procedure, the surgeon tries to save these important nerves. This is known as "nerve-sparing" surgery. Depending on how close the cancer is to the nerves, the surgeon may be able to spare the nerves.

Do I have cancer if my prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level is elevated?

Your PSA level is checked through a simple blood test. There are many reasons it may be elevated. Prostate enlargement, inflammation and infection are some causes. If your PSA is mildly elevated, your doctor may obtain a "percentage-free PSA."

What is a "percentage-free PSA?"

This indicates how much PSA circulates alone or unbound in the blood and how much is bound together with other blood proteins. For total PSA results in the borderline range (4-10), a low percent free PSA (25% or less) means that a prostate cancer is more likely to be present and suggests the need for a biopsy.

What is a prostate biopsy and is it painful?

A core needle biopsy is the main method used to diagnose prostate cancer. It takes just a few minutes to perform and may produce some temporary discomfort. In this procedure, a sample of tissue is removed and then examined under a microscope. The doctor inserts several narrow needles (usually through the wall of the rectum) into the prostate gland, using transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) to guide the needles to the prostate. Each needle then removes a cylinder of tissue, or core, usually about 1/2-inch long and 1/16-inch across. The tissue samples are sent to the laboratory where a pathologist checks the tissue under a microscope to see if cancer is present. If cancer is present, the pathologist will also assign it a Gleason grade.

If I am diagnosed with prostate cancer, what other tests do I need to undergo?

With today's early detection methods, you may not need additional testing. Your doctor will want to check whether the cancer has spread to the bones. A bone scan, CT scan and Prostascint Scan may be used. The Prostascint Scan helps your doctor stage the disease of newly diagnosed patients, as well as those whose cancer has recurred.

How serious is prostate cancer?

There are many degrees of seriousness related to this disease. Some prostate cancers are more aggressive than others. Using early detection methods, such as DRE and PSA, doctors can find prostate cancer earlier, when it is more treatable.

For more information about prostate cancer treatment and prevention at Fox Chase Cancer Center or to make an appointment, call 1-888-FOX CHASE (1-888-369-2427).

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