Despite the fact that there are roughly 221,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in American men each year, many of them have no symptoms of the disease.
In these asymptomatic men, the disease is often detected during routine screening with tests such as a digital rectal exam, urinalysis, and possibly a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test by their healthcare professional. This is particularly true of men with early stage prostate cancer, but may also be true of men with more advanced cancer.
Other men with prostate cancer may experience symptoms ranging from mild to severe that may mimic symptoms of other prostate conditions, including benign prostatic hyperplasia/BPH (non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland) and prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate).
Some of these symptoms are more common than others and tend to occur in more localized prostate cancer (cancer limited to the prostate gland or adjacent tissues) while others are more likely to occur in men whose prostate cancer has spread or metastasized to other parts of the body. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should consult your healthcare provider immediately.
Common Prostate Cancer Symptoms
- Urinary frequency: Men with prostate cancer may feel the need to urinate more often, particularly at night.
- Urinary retention: Prostate cancer may cause the sensation of not being able to empty your bladder completely.
- Weak urinary stream: Some men with prostate cancer may feel that their urinary stream is diminished or that they dribble urine.
- Difficulty initiating urination: It may be difficult to begin urinating in some men suffering from prostate cancer.
- Painful urination: Urinating may cause pain or discomfort (dysuria) in some cases of prostate cancer.
- Blood in the urine: Prostate cancer can result in blood in the urine (hematuria) in some men.
- Painful ejaculation: Some men suffering from prostate cancer experience pain with ejaculation.
Other Prostate Cancer Symptoms
Some prostate cancer symptoms are less common and in some men may be associated with more advanced disease.
- Bowel problems: Because the prostate lies just in front of the rectum, prostate cancer that has caused significant enlargement of the prostate or that has spread into nearby tissues including the rectum, may cause intestinal problems such as constipation or diarrhea.
- Erectile dysfunction: Some men may experience impotence if the prostate cancer has affected nerves involved in an erection.
- Blood in the semen: The prostate gland secretes fluid that is part of semen. Cancer in the prostate may cause irritation and inflammation, leading to blood in the semen.
- Lymphedema: If the prostate cancer blocks flow of lymphatic fluid in lymph nodes or lymphatic vessels, men may experience swelling of the pelvic region or legs.
- Bone pain: When prostate cancer spreads, one of the tissues in the body that it often spreads to is bone. Pain in the back, hips, legs, or feet may result if the cancer has spread to bones of those regions.
- Unexplained bone fracture: Metastatic bone disease may result in fractures that occur with only very mild accidents or trauma that would normally not precipitate a break in bones.
- Numbness in the lower extremities: Prostate cancer that has metastasized to the spine may cause compression of nerves resulting in numbness or tingling of the hips, legs, or feet.
- Fatigue: Men with early stage prostate cancer may experience fatigue, but significant fatigue is more likely to occur with cancer that has spread.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should consult your healthcare provider immediately. There are many tests and procedures available for prostate cancer diagnosis and many options for prostate cancer treatment.
Originally published in February 2016 and updated.