Prostate cancer can be a completely silent disease, especially in its early stages. It can grow slowly for years without causing any noticeable signs or symptoms. Sometimes, however, there are important warning signs that something is wrong with the prostate.
What Are the Most Common Warning Signs of Prostate Cancer?
Because of the prostate's location in the body (located just below the bladder in the lower pelvis), urinary symptoms are common warning signs that something is wrong with the prostate.
As urine empties out of the bladder, it travels through a thin tube called the urethra. At the very beginning of the urethra, just as it exits the bladder, it passes directly through the prostate. As the prostate enlarges due to cancer or another problem, the urethra is pinched tighter and tighter within the prostate. As the tube narrows, urine has a much harder time making its way through the urethra and out of the body.
Urinary warning signs that something could be wrong with the prostate include:
- Frequency - urinating much more often than normal.
- Urgency - having a sensation that you need to urinate immediately.
- Nocturia - getting up to urinate multiple times during the night.
- Hesitancy - difficulty starting the urine stream.
Prostate cancer is not the only disease that can cause the prostate to swell, however. In fact, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a much more common cause of an enlarged prostate, and thus, of urinary symptoms. BPH is not cancer, but is still an important condition that should be treated by a physician.
What Are Other Less Common Warning Signs of Prostate Cancer?
The urinary problems discussed above are among the most common experienced by men with prostate cancer. However, they are not the only ones. Other less common warning signs include:
- Blood in the urine
- Blood in the semen
- New-onset erectile dysfunction (impotence)
- Bone pain (especially in the lower back, hips, or ribs)
- Loss of bladder control
When Should I Go to See My Doctor?
The answer to this question is simple. Visit your physician and explain your situation whenever you first begin to experience any of these symptoms. It is especially important for African-American men and those with a family history of prostate cancer to see their physicians, as these two groups have much higher rates of prostate cancer.
The warning signs listed above are almost always abnormal and all need to be evaluated by a physician. This is especially true if these warning signs appear suddenly. Your doctor can use very simple examinations and laboratory tests to determine whether your symptoms are due to prostate cancer, another serious disease, or a less dangerous condition.
An interesting and helpful website that can be used to evaluate your own symptoms is Symptom Checker.