What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is typically a slow-growing disease and, therefore, does not result in the development of any symptoms, especially in the early stages. In fact, a man can live with prostate cancer for many years without any evidence of disease with regard to symptoms.
By the time symptoms do develop, the cancer will likely have spread beyond the prostate into neighboring tissues and organs, as well as to other parts of the body. The symptoms that may appear include:
- Changes with urination including: more frequent urination especially noticed at night, difficulty with starting urination or holding it back, the inability to urinate, or a weak or interrupted flow of urine.
- Pain or burning with urination.
- Evidence of blood in the urine or semen.
- Pain with ejaculation.
- Ongoing pain in the hips, upper thighs, and lower back.
While consistent with prostate cancer, these symptoms can also be attributed to other noncancerous conditions including:
- Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) – this is the enlargement of the prostate, a common condition that many men experience as they get older. An enlarged prostate can ultimately block the flow of urine or interrupt normal sexual function. This is a noncancerous condition that requires medical treatment that may include medication and/or surgery to address symptoms.
- Prostatitis – this is infection or inflammation of the prostate, the symptoms of which can mimic that of prostate cancer.
It is important to note that these conditions are not a preamble to other conditions. For instance, if you develop prostatitis, this does not mean you are at higher risk for developing prostate cancer.
Tell your doctor if you:
Are experiencing more frequent urination, especially at night.
Feel an urgency to urinate.
Notice a weakened urine flow.
Experience pain or burning when you urinate.
Can prostate cancer be found before a man has symptoms?
Prostate cancer can be detected even if there are no symptoms present and it is done through a screening process that includes two tests – the Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) and the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA).
The digital rectal exam is done in a doctor’s office during which the doctor manually feels the prostate through the rectum. Lumpy or hard areas in the prostate may signify the presence of a tumor.
The PSA blood test is used to determine the level of prostate specific antigen (a substance produced exclusively by the prostate) in the blood. Used in tandem, these tests can help to determine the presence of prostate cancers that may not as yet have produced any symptoms.
Talking to your doctor.
It is important that you establish an open line of communication with your doctors so that you can feel comfortable asking questions along the way. Be sure to keep careful track of any questions you have from day to day and bring them along with you when you meet with your doctor.
Some of the more common questions for your doctor include:
- Do my symptoms resemble those related to prostate cancer?
- What tests do you recommend that I undergo and why?
- What are some other conditions that may result in my symptoms? How can these conditions be treated?
- If I have been diagnosed with cancer, what is the grade of my cancer? What is the stage?
- What is my current PSA level?
- Do I need any additional tests?
- Do you recommend that I get a second opinion?
- Are there other cancer specialists with whom I should meet?
- What are the treatment options available? What can I expect from each?
- What are the possible side effects of these treatments? Can these be managed and how?
- Are there any clinical trials in which I can participate?
- What is the prognosis for someone with my grade/stage of cancer?
- What is the likelihood of recurrence?
- What is your experience with the procedures you recommend?
- If surgery is a recommendation, are you familiar and experienced with nerve sparing techniques?