Prostate cancer is cancer of the small walnut-shaped gland in males that produces seminal fluid, the fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men, affecting about one in six men in the United States. A diagnosis of prostate cancer can be scary not only because it can be life-threatening, but also because treatments can cause side effects such as bladder control problems and erectile dysfunction (impotence). But diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer have gotten much better in recent years.
Prostate cancer usually grows slowly and initially remains confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly. If prostate cancer is detected early — when it's still confined to the prostate gland — you have a better chance of successful treatment.
Prostate cancer usually doesn't produce any noticeable symptoms in its early stages, so many cases of prostate cancer aren't detected until the cancer has spread beyond the prostate. For most men, prostate cancer is first detected during a routine screening such as a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test or a digital rectal exam (DRE).
When signs and symptoms do occur, they depend on how advanced the cancer is and how far the cancer has spread.
Early signs and symptoms of prostate cancer can include urinary problems, caused when the prostate tumor presses on the bladder or on the tube that carries urine from the bladder (urethra). However, urinary symptoms are much more commonly caused by benign prostate problems, such as an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) or prostate infections. Less than 5 percent of cases of prostate cancer have urinary problems as the initial symptom. When urinary signs and symptoms do occur, they can include:
- Trouble urinating
- Starting and stopping while urinating
- Decreased force in the stream of urine
Cancer in your prostate or the area around the prostate can cause:
- Blood in your urine
- Blood in your semen
Prostate cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes in your pelvis may cause:
- Swelling in your legs
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
Advanced prostate cancer that has spread to your bones can cause:
- Bone pain that doesn't go away
- Bone fractures
- Compression of the spine