Black men are particularly at risk, with one in nine developing the disease.
Most cases are detected in men over 65, but younger men can get it.
The chestnut-shaped prostate gland is situated under the bladder and in front of the rectum. The gland produces secretions that become part of semen.
Early detection of prostate cancer is critical, because the disease can develop and spread without any warning signs. When the tumor is detected early, 85 percent of patients are alive five years later.
Some warning signals of prostate cancer that may be present include weak or interrupted urine flow; inability to urinate; frequent urination; blood in the urine, and pain or burning during urination.
The American Cancer Society recommends that every man over 40 have an annual rectal examination as part of a comprehensive physical.
The screening test for prostate cancer consists of a physician inserting a gloved finger in the patient's rectum to feel for the prostate.
Many medical centers taking part in next week's free screening program will also offer a blood test known as Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) to check for prostate cancer.
The program, which is being held at hospitals around the country, is sponsored by the Prostate Cancer Education Council and is part of Prostate Cancer Awareness Week.
Philadelphia-area men can call 1-800-641-8822 to find out the nearest location where the cancer screening is being offered. They also can call the following participating centers for more information and to arrange a time for an exam:
* North Penn Hospital 361-4848
* Montgomery Cancer Center 270-2700
* Norristown Regional Cancer Center 278-2500
* Paoli Memorial Hospital 648-1118
* Albert Einstein Medical Center 1-800-EINSTEIN
* Chestnut Hill Hospital 248-8395
* Hospital of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine 871-2100
* Episcopal Hospital 427-7170
* Fox Chase Cancer Center 728-2910
* Hahnemann University Hospital 448-3627
* Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania 662-2891
* Jeanes Hospital 728-2100
* Northeastern Hospital of Philadelphia 291-3415
* Hospital of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine/Parkview 871-2100
* Presbyterian Medical Center of Philadelphia 387-1887
* Temple University 221-4000
* Thomas Jefferson University 1-800-JEFF-NOW
* Phoenixville Hospital 983-1288
* Associates In Urology 521-2053
* Taylor Hospital 595-6180
* Springfield Hospital 328-8980
* Crozer-Chester Medical Center 874-6580
* Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center 609-963-3577
* Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center 609-757-3935
* Haddonfield Urologic 609-488-2111
* W. Jersey Hospital 609-772-5400