Prostate Cancer Symptoms

Diagram of the Prostate.Prostate cancer symptoms often don’t appear in the early stages of the disease. Tumor growth is so slow that many men never experience any symptoms. Initial prostate cancer symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia, and only testing reveals which condition is the root cause.

Every man is different. Some men may not get symptoms. Others only develop minor urinary problems. Still others may experience impotence or chronic pelvic pain.

Frequent Urination, Nocturia, and Incontinence

Urinary difficulties and incontinence are characteristic of early stage prostate cancer symptoms. Men often experience frequent urination, although the amount of urine passed may be quite small. Sleep may be disrupted several times a night due to nocturia, or frequent nighttime urination. If you experience any of the following urinary difficulties, consult your doctor:

  • Frequent urination
  • Inability to urinate
  • Painful urination
  • Burning sensations when urinating
  • Incontinence
  • Weak flow of urine
  • Interrupted urine flow
  • Leaking or “dribbling”
  • Nocturia.

Sexual Difficulties and Erectile Dysfunction

Some men experience erectile dysfunction, the inability to attain or maintain an erection. Others can function sexually, but find ejaculation painful. In some cases, blood may be present in semen. In most cases erectile dysfunction and other sexual difficulties are associated with advanced disease.

Hematuria and Chronic Pelvic Pain

As the disease progresses, men may lose weight, experience lethargy, or be diagnosed with anemia. Chronic pelvic pain and bone pain may occur if the cancer metastasizes and enters the bones.

Hematuria is the presence of blood in the urine. Hematuria may present as pink or brown-colored urine, or blood may be present in such small amounts that it is not visible and only laboratory tests can detect it.

Diagnosis Techniques

The following are brief descriptions of common diagnostic tools.

Digital Rectal Exam (DRE): A DRE can be performed by your family doctor. A gloved, lubricated finger is inserted into the rectum, and the doctor examines the size, shape and texture of the prostate by touch.

Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Test: A PSA test is a blood test that measures the levels of prostate specific antigen in the bloodstream. High levels of PSA may indicate the presence of a tumor, or may indicate benign prostatic hyperplasia or other prostate disorders.

Imaging Techniques: A number of imaging techniques, including MRI, CT scans and ultrasound can provide doctors with accurate pictures of the prostate.

Cytoscopy: A fiberoptic tube is inserted into the urethra, and transmits images to a television screen.

Biopsy: A biopsy needle is inserted into the gland and a small sample of tissue is removed. The sample is then examined under a microscope for evidence of cancerous cells. A biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose prostate cancer.


National Institutes of Health