National Prostate Health Month (NPHM), also known as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, is observed every September in North America by health experts, health advocates, and individuals concerned with men's prostate health and prostate cancer.

About one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. Prostate cancer occurs mainly in older men, but young men can be affected too. To understand prostate cancer, let’s explore more about prostate health.

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small gland that is part of the male reproductive health system. It helps make semen and is located just below the bladder.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer involves the growth of cancerous cells inside the prostate. The cancerous cells multiply quickly and begin to clump together to form a tumor. Sometimes, the cells break out of the prostate gland and affect other parts of the body.

What is my chance of developing prostate cancer?

There are many factors that influence health, but some of the things that can put you at higher risk for developing prostate cancer are:

  • Age. Men age 50 and older run a greater risk.
  • Race. Prostate cancer is most common among African-American men, followed by Hispanic and Native-American men. Asian-American men have the lowest rates of prostate cancer.
  • Family history. If your father or brother had prostate cancer, you are more likely to have it, too.
  • Diet. The risk of prostate cancer may be higher for men who eat high-fat diets.

What symptoms should I look out for?

If you have any of the following problems, follow up with your PCM to make sure these symptoms2 are not associated with a serious medical condition:

  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Need to get up many times during the night to urinate
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Pain or burning urination
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Frequent pain or stiffness in lower back, hips, pelvic or rectal area, or upper thighs
  • Dribbling of urine

How will I know if any of these symptoms may be prostate cancer?

At your appointment with your doctor, he or she will ask about your medical history and any family history of prostate cancer. Your doctor will also perform a digital rectal exam to check your prostate’s size, firmness, and to determine if there are any lumps or pain in the prostate area. You also may be asked to provide a urine sample so that your prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level can be determined. High PSA levels can be a result of an enlarged prostate gland or other prostate concerns. Further testing can include ultrasounds, biopsies, or other methods to properly diagnose any prostate issues.

To learn more about how to take care of your reproductive health, visit the Semper Fit Human Performance Program on your installation or visit the Navy & Marine Corps Public Health Center for more information.