Early Warning Signs for Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is a serious condition that affects millions of men. In fact, except for skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. Doctors diagnose more than 288,000 new cases of prostate cancer annually. Unfortunately, the condition claims about 34,700 lives each year.
Like other types of cancer, prostate cancer may cause symptoms in its earliest stages. Being aware of these symptoms can help men get the diagnosis and treatment they need to overcome prostate cancer.
All about the Prostate
Prostate cancer affects the prostate gland, which is a small gland located just below the bladder, about halfway between the rectum and penis, in men. The donut-shaped gland wraps around the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body. Because of the location of this gland, prostate problems can cause urinary symptoms.
The prostate’s main job is to produce seminal fluid, which is a liquid that nourishes and transports sperm. During ejaculation, the muscles of the prostate contract to squirt prostatic fluid into the urethra, where the fluid mixes with sperm cells and seminal fluid. Prostate problems, such as prostate cancer, can cause pain or dysfunction during ejaculation.
About Prostate Cancer
Like other types of cancer, prostate cancer is characterized by the growth of abnormal cells. Cancer is a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time. The abnormal cells can interfere with the healthy cells, and prevent the prostate from functioning properly. The interference and dysfunction of healthy cell function can cause signs and symptoms.
Over time, the abnormal prostate cells can break away from the tumor and move outside of the prostate, in a process known as metastasis. The cancer cells can then travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to affect other parts of the body. While the abnormal cells can travel to affect organs anywhere in the body, prostate cancer usually metastasizes to the lymph glands and bones. Metastasis to these areas can cause signs and symptoms.
Doctors perform a wide variety of tests to determine if and how far the prostate cancer cells have traveled. They used the information the tests provide to describe the progression of cancer in stages, giving each stage a number from 0 to IV (0 to 4). In stage I cancer, the tumor is small and cannot be felt; it affects less than one half of one side of the prostate. In stage II, the tumor is growing, but still localized to the prostate gland. Stage III cancers have spread outside the prostate to nearby tissue, and stage IV cancers have spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body, including the bones.
Prostate cancer rarely causes symptoms when it is in its early stages
The symptoms of prostate cancer depend largely on the size of the tumor and how far it has spread. When the tumor is localized to the prostate or tissue immediately next to the gland, the symptoms will largely affect the urinary tract and primary sex organs to cause problems while urinating or ejaculating.
Most prostate cancers grow slowly, fortunately, and the abnormal cancer cells are usually confined to the prostate gland. Slow growth and limited metastasis are good, of course, but the stage I or II tumors don’t always cause symptoms – this means many men may have prostate cancer, but do not know it.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
While prostate cancer does not always cause symptoms in its earliest stages, men may experience the following symptoms:
- Pain or a burning sensation during urination or ejaculation
- Frequent urination, particularly at night
- Difficulty starting or stopping the flow of urine
- Sudden erectile dysfunction
- Blood in semen or urine
Other Early Warning Signs for Prostate Cancer
Other early warning signs may include unusually weak flow of urine flow and unexplained pain around the prostate while sitting. These symptoms develop when the tumor presses against the urethra or prostate gland.
If the cancer has spread beyond the prostate gland, these symptoms may appear:
- Inflammation in the back or lower body
- Back or hip pain
- Bone pain
- Abnormal urinary or bowel habits
- Unexplained weight loss
It is important to note that the signs of prostate cancer are also shared by many other, less-serious conditions. If you are displaying one or more of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that you have prostate cancer. Similarly, a man who is diagnosed with prostate cancer may not have any of these symptoms.
For more information on the early warning signs for prostate cancer, consult with your doctor. The earlier you get tested, the sooner you can start treatment.