Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer found in American men, after non-melanoma skin cancer. It is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among men of all races and Hispanic origin populations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Backention (CDC).
Prostate cancer starts in the prostate gland, a walnut-sized gland in men located at the base of the bladder in front of the rectum and surrounds the upper part of the urethra. The prostate helps regulate bladder control and produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.
According to the CDC, some 176,450 men in the United States were diagnosed with prostate cancer and 27,681 men in the U.S. died from it in 2013.
It is not yet known what specifically causes prostate cancer. However, there are several factors that increase the risk of prostate cancer. Some of the risk factors are:
Age: Prostate cancer mainly affects men over the age of 50 and your risk increases with age.
Family history: Men are more likely to get prostate cancer if their father or brother has been diagnosed with it, as compared to people who have no relatives with this cancer.
Ethnicity: Black men are more likely to get prostate cancer than men belonging to other ethnic backgrounds.
Lack of exercise: Lack of physical activity makes you more vulnerable to prostate cancer.
High testosterone levels: Men who use testosterone therapy are more likely to suffer from prostate cancer.
Poor diet: As with most cancers, a poor diet puts you at a higher risk of prostate cancer. Excess dairy products, a high-calcium diet, intake of processed and red meat, saturated fat, high alcohol intake and high doses of vitamin E supplements are linked to a higher risk of prostate cancer.
Cancer of the prostate is often slow-growing and symptoms may not occur for many years. In fact, during the early stage, prostate cancer may not have any symptoms. The symptoms start only when the cancer is large enough to put pressure on the urethra.
Similarly, if the cancer starts in the outer part of the prostate gland, away from the urethra, there may not be any symptoms.
It’s important to note that an enlarged prostate does not necessarily mean the presence of cancer. As men get older, the prostate gland often enlarges. This condition is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH does not usually develop into cancer, but an enlarged prostate may sometimes contain areas of cancer cells.
Also, tumors or growths in the prostate can give rise to symptoms similar to prostate cancer even if the growths are noncancerous (benign).
By having proper knowledge of the possible symptoms of prostate cancer, it is possible to take action in a timely manner.
Here are the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer that you must know.
1. Changes in Bladder Habits
Due to the proximity of the prostate gland in relation to the bladder and urethra, prostate cancer leads to a variety of urinary symptoms. Depending on the size and location, a tumor may press on and constrict the urethra, leading to changes in bladder habits.
Men can notice several changes in bladder habits, including:
- Difficulty urinating or trouble starting and stopping while urinating
- Burning sensation or pain during urination
- More frequent need to urinate, especially at night
- Loss of bladder control, which can cause urine leakage
- Weak flow
- A sense of incompletely emptying the bladder.
2. Blood in the Urine
Noticing blood in the urine, though most commonly caused by a bladder infection, is another possible indication of advanced prostate cancer. Unfortunately, you may not have signs or symptoms in the early stages.
When the tumor enlarges, it compresses the urethra, partially blocking urine flow and there may be scar tissue in the prostate and the surrounding areas. This can lead to discharge of blood during urination.
Blood in the urine can also be the first sign of cancer of the bladder, kidneys or colon, so it is important to bring this problem to your doctor’s attention.
3. Sexual Dysfunction
The prostate gland plays a key role in the male reproductive system. Hence, any kind of problem in this gland can cause sexual dysfunction.
When suffering from prostate cancer, you may have problems getting or maintaining an erection, or experience painful ejaculation. When the condition advances, there may also appear blood in semen.
Because sexual dysfunction is a common problem associated with increasing age, many men ignore this symptom. Do not take erectile dysfunction lightly. Consult your doctor. Tests can help determine whether your symptoms are due to cancer.
4. Frequent Pain
Once prostate cancer spreads and reaches the bones, it can cause frequent pain. Pain is also likely to occur in multiple areas. The intensity of the pain depends upon the growth of the tumor and how much it has spread into the surrounding areas.
Men with cancer of the prostate can experience dull, deep pain in the hips, lower back, pelvis or upper thighs.
For any ongoing pain, whether mild or chronic, it should be assessed by a doctor to rule out serious health problems.
5. Weakness or Numbness in Legs
Along with pain, you may experience swelling in the legs and pelvic area. Plus, there may be numbness in the hips, legs and feet. It may also cause stiffness in the hips, thighs or back.
Some men may even experience loss of bladder or bowel control.
This usually happens if the cancer spreads to the spine and causes the compression of spinal cord.
6. Unexplained Weight Loss
Unexplained weight loss is often one of the first noticeable signs of different types of cancer, including prostate cancer.
Weight loss often occurs with prostate cancer when the cancer spreads to the liver and impairs its functioning. Liver function is important for regulating appetite and removing toxins.
If you have not been trying to lose weight through exercise and diet but you are still losing weight, consult a doctor.
Moreover, constant weakness and fatigue can be a sign of a variety of cancers, including cancer of the prostate.
In fact, this type of cancer can cause a bone-deep tiredness that never gets better, no matter how much sleep and rest you get. This tiredness is different from the exhaustion you feel after a hectic day. It can affect your energy level, motivation and ability to concentrate.
Weakness and fatigue that does not go away should be evaluated by a doctor.
The American Cancer Society recommends that men above 50 years of age with one or more risk factors for prostate cancer get routine screenings. Prostate cancer screenings make it possible to detect the cancer in its early stages, before symptoms are present.