Prostate Cancer Myths and Facts

Being diagnosed with prostate cancer can be overwhelming. You will often be flooded with information and it can be hard to disseminate what is true and what is false. Below are some common misconceptions about prostate cancer.

Myth 1: Prostate cancer will end your sex life and cause urine leakage.

Fact: Your surgeon may be able to spare the nerves that help trigger erections. If the nerves go unharmed, you should be able to have an erection strong enough for sex after recovering. The recovery period for the procedure is usually between four and 24 months but it may take longer depending on the individual. If you still have trouble, ask your doctor about treatments for erectile dysfunction.1

Because your prostate is close to the bladder and surrounds the tube that allows urine to flow outside the body (the urethra), treatment can sometimes affect your ability to control urination. Urinary incontinence (urine leakage) is a relatively common side-effect of radical prostatectomy (removal of the prostate). It is usually temporary (lasting a few weeks to a few months) however a small number of men may experience permanent incontinence. Within a year, about 95 percent of men have as much bladder control as they did before surgery.2 

To learn more about the side effects of treatment for prostate cancer, click here.

Myth 2: Only elderly men get prostate cancer.

Fact: It’s rare for men under the age of 40 to develop prostate cancer. Age isn’t the only factor. Others factors include: 

  • Family history: if your father or brother had prostate cancer, you could be two or three times more likely to get it. The more relatives you have with the disease, the greater your chances of getting it.
  • Race: African-American men are more likely to get it than anyone else. Scientists aren’t sure why.

If you have concerns, ask your doctor if you should get tested earlier.3

To learn about prostate cancer risk factors, click here.

Myth 3: All prostate cancer needs to be treated.

Fact: You and your doctor may decide not to treat your prostate cancer. Reasons include:

  • The cancer is at an early stage and is growing very slowly.
  • You’re elderly or have other illnesses. Prostate cancer treatment may not prolong your life and may make it harder to care for your other health problems.

In such cases, your doctor will likely suggest “active surveillance”. This means that they’ll check you often and order tests to see if the cancer is getting worse. If your situation changes, you may decide to start treatment.4

Myth 4: A high prostate-specific antigen (PSA) score means you have prostate cancer.

Fact: Not necessarily. A high PSA score could be the result of another prostate issue that isn’t cancer such as an inflamed prostate. The score is there to help your doctor determine if they need to conduct more prostate cancer tests.5

Myth 5: If you get prostate cancer, you’ll die of the disease.

Fact: Many men with prostate cancer are likely to live to an old age or die of some other cause.6

Myth 6: My dad had prostate cancer, so I will, too.

Fact: While your risk of having prostate cancer doubles when a first-degree family member has prostate cancer, you may never develop the disease. If prostate cancer is hereditary in your family, it is important to complete a risk assessment with your healthcare provider and visit a genetic counsellor. The genetic counsellor will be able to inform you whether or not you are susceptible to the mutated gene that causes prostate cancer. It is estimated that about five to ten percent of all cases may be classified as hereditary prostate cancer.7

Myth 7: Vasectomies cause prostate cancer.

Fact: It was once believed that vasectomies put men at risk of developing prostate cancer – this issue has since been carefully researched. Epidemiologists have found there is no link between vasectomies and a man’s chance of getting prostate cancer. This myth was previously recognized as a prostate cancer risk because men who have had a vasectomy usually have their prostate checked at the same time, coincidentally discovering prostate cancer during the visit.8