What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
Because prostate cancer is usually a disease that is slow-growing, most men do not experience many, if any, symptoms, specifically in earlier stages. Many men live with prostate cancer for multiple years without having any evidence of cancer being present, at least in regards to symptoms.
Once a patient starts to experience symptoms, it usually means that the cancer has progressed to a more advanced stage where cancerous cells have traveled outside the prostate into nearby tissues, organs, and potentially other body parts.
Symptoms may include:
- Changes in urinary patterns: Frequent urination, noticeable more at night. Challenges with beginning to urinate or holding back. Struggling to urinate or inability to do so. Interrupted or weak flow of urine.
- Pain or burning with urination.
- Spotting blood in semen or urine.
- Pain when ejaculating.
- Chronic pain in the upper thighs, lower back, and hips.
These symptoms aren’t exclusive to prostate cancer, however, and can also be due to other more benign conditions, including the two most common:
- Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) – : This refers to the enlargement of the prostate. The condition is common to men once they begin getting older. Enlarged prostates can impact normal sexual function and block the flow of urine. This condition can be treated with medication and potentially surgery but is not cancerous..
- Prostatitis – This term indicates an inflammation or infection of the prostate. Symptoms have been known to mimic prostate cancer.
None of these conditions is directly linked to any other condition. Having one does not make it more likely that a man would have a higher risk to develop prostate cancer.
Convey to your doctor any of the following:
- You experience an increase in urination, specifically at night.
- Increase in urgency to urinate.
- Urine flow becomes noticeably weakened.
- Any burning or pain during urination
Is there early detection for prostate cancer before symptoms develop?
Even with no presenting symptoms, doctors are able to detect prostate cancer. There is a two-test process to screen for cancer: The Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) and the Digital Rectal Exam (DRE).
Digital rectal exams are completed in a doctor’s office. The doctor feels the prostate manually through the rectum. If the prostate has lumpy or hard regions, it may signify a tumor is present.
The PSA is a blood test that determines the level of prostate-specific antigen present in the blood sample. The substance is produced only by the prostate, and levels tend to be elevated when cancer is present.
Together, these two tests help doctors determine if prostate cancer is present before any symptoms are even experienced by the patient.
Speaking with your doctor.
One of the most important steps to take is establishing open communication lines with your team of doctors. You need to be able to comfortably ask any questions you may have. Keep a running list of questions that pop up and bring the list along to all of your appointments.
The most common questions men have are:
- Are my symptoms similar to those for prostate cancer?
- Are there tests that you recommend I do and why?
- Are there other conditions that present with my symptoms and how are they treated?
- If I have a cancer diagnosis, what stage is my cancer? And what is the grade?
- What is my PSA level currently?
- Do I need other tests?
- Should I be getting a second opinion?
- Are there other additional cancer specialists I should be meeting with?
- What are my treatment options, and what should I be expecting from them?
- What are the potential side effects of the treatments and how are they managed?
- Are there any appropriate clinical trials for me to participate in?
- With my stage and grade of cancer, what is my prognosis?
- Do you know if my cancer is likely to recur?
- What type of experience do you have with these recommended procedures?
- If you recommend surgery, what is your experience with nerve-sparing techniques?