What Are Symptoms of Early Prostate Cancer?

Perhaps one of the more troubling characteristics of prostate cancer is that common signs and symptoms of the condition typically do not appear until the cancer has grown substantially, or has progressed beyond the prostate. Early prostate cancer is essentially asymptomatic, meaning it has no symptoms.

The most effective ways to catch prostate cancer early on, are to visit your doctor regularly for prostate cancer screening tests such as the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, the digital rectal exam (DRE), or a prostate biopsy. If your doctor suspects that you may have prostate cancer, they can also utilize imaging technologies such as MRI scans, CT scans, or ultrasound images to get a better look at what’s going on.

The recommended screening schedule for prostate cancer can vary based on age and other risk factors, such as a family history of prostate cancer, or race. Determining the best screening schedule for your situation is a decision you can make with your doctor, typically beginning at 50 years old, or earlier if high risk. Not everyone is screened annually, or even bi-annually (every 2 years). Because of this, and because early prostate cancer is often asymptomatic, it can take years to diagnose the cancer, and may even be found as a result of treating or investigating another condition.1

Early prostate cancer can be asymptomatic

Typically, the earliest physical signs of prostate cancer are symptoms related to tumor growth within the prostate. Since the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder through the penis and out of the body) travels through the prostate gland, early signs of a prostate cancer tumor may be related to urinary difficulties. Some of these earlier symptoms may include:

  • Painful urination or a burning feeling while urinating or ejaculating
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • An increased need to urinate (often during the night)
  • Weak urine stream or interrupted urine stream
  • Difficulty in starting or stopping urinating
  • Leaking of urine or loss of bladder control

Many of these symptoms can be caused by a variety of different issues, including benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) which is the non-cancerous growth of the prostate gland as a man ages. These symptoms can also be caused by urinary tract infections, prostate gland infections, or trauma to the urinary or reproductive tract, all of which are treatable. It is important to talk to your provider if you notice these signs or symptoms, so they can help determine the cause.2,3

Progressive and treatment-related symptoms

As prostate cancer progresses or as you receive treatment for the condition, more symptoms can begin to develop. These treatment-related and/or cancer related symptoms include:

Whether or not you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer or have received treatment, if you notice any of these symptoms or signs of these issues worsen, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Written by: Casey Hribar | Last reviewed: October 2017
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