Most prostate cancers grow very slowly and do not cause symptoms until the disease has advanced; so many men never know they have prostate cancer or experience symptoms related to it.
Some men develop symptoms when the cancer reaches an advanced stage, spreading beyond the prostate. The areas most affected when prostate cancer spreads are bone, including the pelvis, ribs or vertebrae. Other areas that may be affected are the kidneys, brain or spinal cord.
Prostate cancer begins as a small hard bump or lump on the prostate gland. Your doctor may detect the cancer through routine screening, such as digital rectal exam (DRE) or prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. A biopsy is the only way to confirm the presence of prostate cancer. Typically conducted in the doctor’s office, this test removes tissue samples to examine under a microscope.
Early signs of prostate cancer may include urinary problems; however, most urinary issues are related to an enlarged prostate, a common condition in older men called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is a normal part of aging caused by hormone and cell growth changes. The prostate gland surrounds the urethra, which carries urine from the bladder out of the body. As the prostate gets bigger, it can block or squeeze the urethra, which causes urination problems. As men age, they frequently experience BPH-related symptoms.
Less than 5% of men with prostate cancer have urinary problems as the initial symptom. If an individual does experience urinary symptoms, they may include:
- Blood in semen
- Blood in urine
- Decreased force of the urine stream
- Starting and stopping while urinating
- Trouble urinating
Prostate cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes in the pelvis may cause:
- Blockage of the ureters that drain urine from the kidneys, causing kidney failure
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Swelling in the legs
Advanced prostate cancer that has spread to bones may cause:
- Bone fractures
- Bone pain that does not go away
- Compression of the spine