10 Early Signs of Prostate Cancer That Often Go Unnoticed

Sadly, many men don’t find out they have prostate cancer until the cancer has spread, making it more difficult to treat. This is because in the early stages, prostate cancer often doesn’t have many symptoms. That’s a problem because prostate cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in American men, after skin cancer.

The good news is, there are signs to be alert for. If you or a man in your life notices any of these changes, it’s important to head to the doctor for a checkup sooner rather than later.

Difficulty urinating
This may take the form of feeling like you have to go and then nothing comes out, stopping mid-stream, or having to go more often. Another sign is difficulty stopping, which often takes the form of extended dribbling, or the feeling that you still have to go even when you’re done. Because the prostate gland surrounds the urethra—the tube that carries both urine and semen—even a very small tumor in this location can interfere with urination or ejaculation. The prostate gland becomes enlarged in many men as they age, and this enlargement can cause similar urinary problems, as can benign inflammation of the prostate. So there may be no need to worry, but only a doctor can sort out one from the other.

Pain while urinating
Again, the problem may be a prostate tumor pressing on the urethra. However, pain while urinating is also a symptom of infection of the prostate, known as prostatitis, and of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.

Blood in the urine
This sign is less common, but is a reason to go straight to the doctor. It doesn’t have to be very much blood; all you might notice is a pinkish tint or smear. Some types of urinary tract infections can cause blood in the urine as well, but the doctor will need to perform tests to distinguish.

Difficulty getting or keeping an erection
Yes, this one’s really hard to talk about. But if it’s not happening when you want it to, or things get stuck “half-mast,” it’s time for a checkup. (Female partners need to tread delicately around this one, but if it’s happening often enough to interfere with your sex life on a regular basis, find a moment to introduce the subject in a kind and non-threatening way.) A prostate tumor can prevent the blood flow increase to the penis that allows an erection to happen, or it can prevent the erection from sustaining to ejaculation. Enlargement of the prostate and BPH can also cause this, so don’t panic, but do talk to your doctor.

Blood in the semen
This sign, like blood in the urine (#3) is often not described very clearly. It’s not a large amount of blood, more like just enough to make semen pinkish or streaked, according to men with prostate cancer. Gals, you can help with this one too; if you notice an odd color to semen after sex, speak up.

Prostate Cancer Statistics

What is the chance for a diagnosis of prostate cancer:

For a man in his 40s - 1 in 1000
For a man in his 50s - 12 in 1000
For a man in his 60s - 45 in 1000
For a man in his 70s - 80 in 1000

- Each year in Australia, close to 3,300 men die of prostate cancer - equal to the number of women who die from breast cancer annually. Around 20,000 new cases are diagnosed in Australia every year.

- Each day about 32 men learn news that they have prostate cancer - tragically one man every three hours will lose his battle against this insidious disease

- One in 9 men in Australia will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime

- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Australian men and is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men

- As many men die from prostate cancer as women die from breast cancer but… a national survey by PCFA in 2002 showed that while 78% of women felt well informed about breast cancer – only 52% of men felt informed about prostate cancer

- The chance of developing prostate cancer increases:
- - as men get older.
- - if there is a family history of prostate cancer eg a man with a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer

- Early, curable prostate cancer may not have symptoms. While younger men are less likely to be diagnosed with it, they are more likely to die prematurely from it

- Simple testing by a GP can indicate prostate cancer

- Early detection can be achieved with PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test or DRE (Digital Rectal Examination) testing. Our research in 2002 shows that only 10% of men surveyed between the ages of 50 and 70 had taken these tests in the previous year.

- Some groups are at greater risk of prostate cancer

- ... for example, for every 100 men who dies of prostate cancer in a metropolitan area of Australia (such as Melbourne or Sydney) 121 men will die in rural Australia. Various factors may include lack of awareness and education about prostate cancer, distance from testing and treatment, poor GP awareness and limited access to specialists (such as urologists)

- The Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia states that veterans have a 53% higher mortality rate from prostate cancer than the average population

- A recently published international study showed that firefighters have a 28% higher risk of prostate cancer

Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia

Chronic constipation and other intestinal issues
The prostate gland is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum, so a tumor in this location can interfere with digestive functions. However, it’s sort of a chicken-and-egg situation; chronic constipation can contribute to an enlarged prostate by putting pressure on the gland, as well as vice versa. Chronic constipation and intestinal problems can also be an early indicator of colon cancer. A good general rule is, if you’re suffering from constipation, gas, or other intestinal symptoms that don’t go away when you modify your diet, talk to the doctor.

Frequent pain in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs
The most common sites for prostate cancer to spread are the lower back, pelvis, and hips. Unexplained pain and tenderness in this area is a sign of trouble. One way to distinguish this type of pain from run-of-the-mill sciatica and lower back pain is that it may feel deeper and more like a dull ache. However, experts say any lower back or hip pain that doesn’t go away is a reason to see the doctor.

Having to pee in the middle of the night
This is one of the sly symptoms that men diagnosed with prostate cancer say they now look back and remember. If you find yourself waking more than once a night urgently needing to go, a trip to the doctor and a PSA test is in order.

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