Cancer of the prostate is typically a slow progressing cancer and symptoms often do not arise for many years. If the cancer is caught at an early stage, there might be no noticeable symptoms. Some men, however, will experience symptoms that could indicate the presence of prostate cancer. These might include:
- A need for frequent urination, particularly at night
- Difficulty starting urination
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- Pain or a burning sensation during urination
- Difficulty in obtaining an erection
- Pain during ejaculation
- Blood in the urine or in semen
- Recurring pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs
Sometimes the first symptoms will be lower back, hip or pelvic pain caused by cancer which has already spread.
It is important to be aware that the symptoms of both benign enlargement of the prostate gland (i.e. non-cancerous) and malignant tumours (cancer) are similar and might include any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty starting urination
- Frequent urination, particularly at night
- Pain during urination
- Blood in the urine
Also, men over 50 years of age often have an enlarged prostate gland due to the non-cancerous condition of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or hypertrophy.
Therefore if you notice any of the above symptoms it is important that you see your doctor and have them investigated. But note that most enlargements of the prostate are not due to cancer and can regularly be dealt with quite effectively.
EARLY DIAGNOSIS OF PROSTATE CANCER
Prostate cancer can often be discovered at an early stage by testing the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. Prostate cancer can also be detected early by your doctor performing a digital rectal examination (DRE). Since the prostate gland is situated close to the rectum, a doctor can physically detect if there are any cancerous signs in your prostate.
Unfortunately the PSA and DRE tests are not totally accurate and conclusive. This can lead to anxiety and confusion, or even to a false sense of security. So important things to consider are your age, your general health and your lifestyle. If you are young and develop prostate cancer, if not caught early enough, it could shorten your life. If however you are older or in poor health, then prostate cancer might never become a serious problem due to its slow-growing nature.
The American Cancer Society recommends that men commence having the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination (DRE) annually from the age of 50. Those at higher risk, such as African Americans and those with close relatives who developed prostate cancer at an early age are recommended to commence testing at 45.
The prognosis for prostate cancer sufferers has improved dramatically in recent years. In the past twenty years the overall survival rate for all stages of prostate cancer has increased from 67% to 97%. Thus more men are living significantly longer after diagnosis. In all likelihood this is due to early detection programs, increased public awareness, particularly of prostate cancer symptoms, and the adoption of healthier lifestyles.