Could Your Symptoms Be Prostate Cancer? 11 Signs You Might Have Prostate Problems
Prostate cancer often has not symptoms in the early stages, and those that do appear early — namely problems with urination — can mimic those caused by benign conditions associated with aging. What should you be on the look out for?
Let’s face it: Many of us put off seeing a doctor until things get worrisome. But for your own good and for the sake of the people you love, it’s important to take charge of your health. And knowing about prostate problems should be high on your priority list.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men (excluding skin cancer), and the second leading cause of cancer death. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 161,000 American men were diagnosed in 2019; it was the cause of nearly 27,000 deaths that year. (1)
What Are Early Signs of Prostate Cancer?
Here are the main symptoms of prostate cancer:
- Frequent urination
- Other urinary difficulties
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Pain or stiffness in the hips, lower back or upper thighs
But a man may not experience any of these symptoms and still have prostate cancer.
“Prostate cancer is, like most cancers, a silent disease in its early stages,” says Gerald Chodak, MD, a urologist in Chicago and the author of Winning the Battle Against Prostate Cancer: Get the Treatment That Is Right for You.
For many men, the first sign of prostate problems involves urination changes.
“Some men may begin to notice increased frequency, slowing of their stream, and getting up at night to empty their bladder,” says Dr. Chodak.
Urinary troubles can often signal a noncancerous gland enlargement, which is called benign prostatic hyperplasia, a condition that is common in men over 40. “Virtually every guy over 70 has some prostatic enlargement,” says Edward Geehr, MD, the chief medical officer of ILinkMD Corporation.
Still, any urination changes — including pain, weak flow, difficulty starting or stopping, frequent nighttime urination or blood in the urine or semen — should be evaluated by a doctor.
In its advanced stages, prostate cancer can cause leg swelling and bone pain as the cancer spreads to other areas of the body.
People With These Characteristics Should Pay More Attention to Symptoms
Some populations should take potential symptoms more seriously, because they’re at higher risk for the disease. These include:
1. Advanced ageThe older a man is, the greater his chances of developing prostate cancer. In fact, if a man lives long enough, the odds are very good that he will develop the disease. Cancer can be diagnosed, however, at much younger ages — even at age 28. And men in their 20s and 30s tend to have more aggressive forms of the disease. (2)
2. African-American descentMedical experts aren’t sure why, but African-American men have the highest rate of prostate cancer incidence in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. What’s more, they are also more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage and are more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men. () On the other hand, according to the American Cancer Society, rates of death from prostate cancer have declined faster among black men than they have in white men. (4)
3. Family historyProstate problems tend to run in families. A man who has one first-degree relative (meaning a father or brother) with prostate cancer has more than twice the average risk of developing the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute. (5) That risk increases if more than two first-degree relatives had it. In addition, a man’s risk is increased if two first-degree relatives were diagnosed before age 55. Men in families known to carry one of the BRCA genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) are also at higher risk for prostate cancer. (6)
4. WeightWhile being overweight or obese does not raise a person’s overall risk of developing prostate cancer, researchers think that it may raise the risk of being diagnosed with a more advanced and aggressive form of the disease. According to a study published in the December 2013 issue of the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases, obese men had more aggressive and more advanced cancer at the time of surgery than those who weren’t obese. (7)
About 1 in 10 cases of these kinds of cancers are related to carrying excess body fat. Experts think that too much body fat may increase the body’s production of insulin which acts as a growth factor for cancers. (8,9)
5. High-fat diet Men who eat a large amount of red meat or high-fat dairy products appear to have a slightly higher chance of developing prostate cancer, the American Cancer Society reports. (10)
The way the meat is cooked may also increase your risk of prostate problems, according to a study published in November 2012 inCarcinogenesisby researchers at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. (11)
The researchers found that men who ate more than 2.5 weekly servings of red meat cooked at high temperatures were 40 percent more likely to have advanced prostate cancer than men who ate less than that amount. (12)
RELATED: Are Big Men More Prone to Aggressive Prostate Cancer?
A Lingering Question: Do Vasectomies Increase Prostate Cancer Risk?
There’s no need to panic if you’ve heard about studies suggesting that men who have vasectomies are at a greater risk of developing prostate cancer.
Controversy has existed for several decades over the possible relationship between vasectomy and prostate cancer, says Chodak. But those studies were flawed.
A Mayo Clinic review of 53 studies published in September 2019 inJAMA Internal Medicinefound no link between the procedure and high-grade, advanced, or fatal prostate cancer. Whatever negligible association they did detect between vasectomies and cancer probably had nothing to do with the disease, say the authors.
Video: Prostate cancer: warning signs, diagnosis and treatment
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