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Prostate cancer symptoms

The most common symptoms of prostate cancer and a non cancerous (benign) enlarged prostate are the same. They are

  • Having to rush to the toilet to pass urine
  • Passing urine more often than usual, especially at night
  • Difficulty passing urine, including straining to pass it or stopping and starting
  • A sense of not being able to completely empty the bladder
  • Pain when passing urine
  • Blood in the urine or semen

What causes the symptoms?

Prostate cancer and non cancerous enlargement of the prostate both cause symptoms by pressing on the tube that carries urine out of the body (the urethra). The pressure blocks the flow of urine.

If you have any symptoms, do see your doctor. Most enlargements of the prostate are not cancer (they are benign) and can be easily treated. 

Do also remember that very early prostate cancer does not usually cause any symptoms at all. Any growth in the prostate is too small at first for you to notice any effect on urine flow.

Other symptoms of prostate cancer

Cancer of the prostate often grows slowly, especially in older men. Symptoms may be mild and can occur over many years. Sometimes the first symptoms are from prostate cancer that has spread to the bones but this is not common. Prostate cancer cells in the bone may cause pain in your back, hips, pelvis or other bony areas. This is known as secondary prostate cancer. 

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the About prostate cancer section.

 

 

Symptoms of non cancerous and cancerous prostate conditions

As men get older their prostate gland often enlarges. This is usually not due to cancer. It is a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia.

The symptoms of growths in the prostate are similar whether they are non cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). The symptoms include

  • Having to rush to the toilet to pass urine
  • Passing urine more often than usual, especially at night
  • Difficulty passing urine, including straining to pass it or stopping and starting
  • A sense of not being able to completely empty the bladder
  • Pain when passing urine
  • Blood in the urine or semen

The last two symptoms – pain and bleeding – are very rare in prostate cancer. They are more often a symptom of non cancerous prostate conditions.

It is important to realise though, that very early prostate cancer generally does not cause any symptoms at all. Many prostate cancers start in the outer part of the prostate gland, away from the urethra. If a tumour is not large enough to put much pressure on the tube that carries urine out of the body (the urethra), you may not notice any effects from it.

 

What causes prostate symptoms

With both prostate cancers and non cancerous enlargement of the prostate, the larger prostate gland presses on the urethra. The pressure blocks the flow of urine and causes symptoms.

Diagram showing prostate cancer pressing on the urethra

Remember that if you have any symptoms you should be checked by your doctor. But most enlargements of the prostate are benign. That means they are not cancer and can be easily treated.

 

Other symptoms of prostate cancer

Cancer of the prostate gland often grows slowly, especially in older men. Symptoms may be mild and occur over many years. Sometimes the first symptoms are from prostate cancer which has spread to your bones but this is not common. Prostate cancer cells in the bone may cause pain in your

  • Back
  • Hips
  • Pelvis
  • Other bony areas

Cancer that has spread to other areas of the body is called metastatic or secondary prostate cancer. In this section there is information about the treatment of prostate cancer that has spread.

Other symptoms that may occur are weight loss, particularly in elderly men, and difficulty getting an erection (where you haven't had difficulty before).

 

What your GP should do

GPs have guidelines that tell them the symptoms to look out for, and when they should send you to a specialist for tests. The guidelines say that men who have symptoms that could be due to prostate cancer should be offered

If your PSA level is slightly raised (a borderline result), the guidelines say you should have another PSA test in 1 to 3 months time. The second test checks if the PSA is going up or is staying the same.

If you have a suspicious PSA reading and other symptoms that could be related to prostate cancer, the guidelines say your GP should consider referring you to a specialist for an appointment within 2 weeks.

Your GP may decide to delay doing a PSA test sometimes. There are a few situations that can affect the reading and make it less accurate – for example, if you have a urine infection. A test should be delayed for a month after you've had treatment for a urine infection. If your GP wants to delay doing a test, you can ask them to explain why.

 

More information about prostate cancer symptoms

The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. So it is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice worrying symptoms.

UK Prostate Link can direct you to information for men worried about prostate cancer symptoms.

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Updated: 14 April 2014