Know the Common Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Know the Common Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Most men don’t know or think much about their prostate. It’s the size of a walnut, weighs about an ounce, and mainly exists to make fluid for semen.

But according to Virtua urologist and robotic surgeon Abraham Spence, MD, men should pay more attention to this small gland.

“Prostate cancer is on the rise,” explains Dr. Spence, “and it’s the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, second only to lung cancer.”

In 2015, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be about 221,000 new prostate cancer cases and 27,540 deaths in the United States. Overall, about 1 man in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.

While prostate cancer can affect men of all ages, it occurs mainly in men older than age 50. It also discriminates, as African-American men are twice as likely to be affected, as are men whose fathers and brothers had prostate cancer. It can be serious; however, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer don’t die from it. In fact, more than 2.9 million U.S. men are still alive today after having prostate cancer at some point in their lives.

“A key step in fighting prostate cancer is early intervention,” says Dr. Spence. “Men who have a family history should strongly consider early prostate cancer screening after age 40. Having genetic risk factors doesn’t mean that you’ll absolutely develop prostate cancer, but it can serve as an early warning sign and influence how soon and often you’re screened for it.”

Awareness of prostate cancer symptoms also helps with early detection. These symptoms include:

  • A frequent need to urinate, including waking at night to use the bathroom
  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Difficulty having an erection
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Pain in lower back, hips, upper thigh, lower pelvic, or bone related pain
  • Weight loss

If you have any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor or to a urologist. After age 55, men should discuss prostate cancer screening including having a blood test, and prostate exam (a quick in-office rectal exam that allows the doctor to feel for abnormal areas on the prostate) at least every two years, if not every year.

As Dr. Spence puts it, “To men who say that they’re uncomfortable with the idea of a prostate exam, I would say that the chance of preventing or controlling prostate cancer far outweighs a brief moment of discomfort.”

Updated March 22, 2017

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