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Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

What Are the Most Important Symptoms of Prostate Cancer to Look For?

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Updated May 30, 2014

While most men today are diagnosed before they begin to show any symptoms of prostate cancer, it is important to know what to look for and which signs may point to an underlying prostate cancer.

Anyone concerned about themselves or a loved one developing prostate cancer should know the basics about the first symptoms that are typically seen.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?

Because of the prostate's location in the body, prostate cancer is often accompanied by a number of unique symptoms. The prostate is located just below the bladder in the lower pelvis. 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.

This results in four primary urinary symptoms:

  • 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.

All of these symptoms are a direct result of the urethra being pinched closed by the enlarged prostate.

Prostate cancer is not the only disease that can cause the prostate to swell, however. In fact, BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) 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 Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?

The urinary symptoms discussed above are undoubtedly the most common symptoms experienced by men with prostate cancer. However, they are not the only ones. Other less common symptoms 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.

These symptoms are less specific to problems with the prostate (meaning that problems with other organs such as the bladder can also cause them). However, they are important symptoms of which to be aware.

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. This is especially true for any men that are over the age of 40 because the vast majority of prostate cancers are diagnosed after that age. It is also 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 symptoms listed above are almost always abnormal and all need to be evaluated by a physician. This is especially true if these symptoms appear suddenly. Very simple examinations and laboratory tests can be put to use by your doctor to determine whether or not your symptoms are due to prostate cancer, another serious disease, or a less dangerous condition.

Are Most Men Diagnosed With Prostate Cancer After They Have Symptoms?

Many people are surprised to learn that the majority of men diagnosed with prostate cancer today have no symptoms when it is first detected. Because of the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test, most men have their prostate cancer detected before they have any significant symptoms. The PSA test is a simple blood test that detects a specific protein produced by the prostate. As the prostate enlarges, more of this protein is produced and more is detected by the PSA test.

Despite this fact, it is still vitally important that you see your physician if you begin experiencing any of the symptoms discussed above. Thousands of men are still diagnosed every year after they develop symptoms.

An interesting and helpful website that can be used to evaluate your own symptoms is Symptom Checker.

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