One out of every nine men in the U.S. receives a diagnosis for prostate cancer during their lifetime, though the disease is rarely fatal, and the majority of men experience no symptoms in the early stages. This type of cancer is usually slow-growing, and doctors often discover and diagnose it following routine physical exams or screenings.
Research highlights several risk factors that may increase the chances of developing prostate cancer, though researchers stress that meeting this criteria does not necessarily mean one will develop the condition. Men over 50 are at greater risk, and most diagnoses come after age 65. Men with a brother or father diagnosed with prostate cancer and those of African American and Caribbean descent are more likely to develop the condition. Men residing in North America, Australia, northwestern Europe, and the Caribbean Islands are also at greater risk.
Urinary issues usually begin once the tumor has grown large enough to put pressure on the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder, through the penis. Many men report an urgent need to urinate, especially at night, but when they try to urinate, they have difficulty starting the stream. Others experience a slow, weak, or interrupted stream of urine, and dribbling afterwards. Incontinence can also develop, as can pain or burning during urination. Hematuria or blood in the urine is also a possible symptom. Some men experience frequent urinary tract infections. However, urination issues do not always indicate prostate cancer; they may be symptoms of other conditions.
The prostate is part of the male reproductive system, and prostate cancer can result in impotence or erectile dysfunction, defined as an inability to maintain or obtain an erection for sexual intercourse on a regular basis. The sudden onset of erectile dysfunction can be a sign of prostate cancer. Physicians usually perform screening tests to determine the cause of the issue.
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Broken blood vessels can cause hematospermia, the medical term for blood in the semen. In most cases, doctors find no cause, but it is usually a sign of an infection. Recurrent blood in the semen, especially in men over the age of 40, is a rare symptom of prostate cancer occurring in less than ten percent of cases. Prostate surgery and prostate biopsies can also cause hematospermia for several weeks following the procedure.
An enlarged prostate is common in men with prostate cancer. The organ is in the lower pelvic area, just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. Due to its location, an enlarged prostate can lead to discomfort, especially when sitting. The groin also has several lymph nodes close to the prostate that help the body fight off infections. Cancer cells often spread to these lymph nodes first, preventing them from functioning properly and causing swelling, which leads to soreness or discomfort.
Prostate cancer can spread to other areas of the body through the lymph nodes and bloodstream, sometimes causing a block in the lymphatic system. At this point, the man may experience swelling and weakness in the legs, feet, penis, and scrotum. Redness or swelling may also develop, along with tight, sore skin. Some men describe a tingling feeling that is sometimes painful. Others describe a heaviness. Swelling may cause discomfort, numbness, and weakness when performing daily activities.
Constipation, watery bowel movements, and flatulence can indicate prostate cancer has spread to the rectum or bowels. Some men experience bowel urgency that can lead to fecal incontinence. Pain in the abdomen and the rectal area and blood in the stools are additional signs of spreading cancer, and some men experience an inability to empty the bowels.
Unexplained or unplanned weight loss often indicates a medical issue and calls for evaluation. Some men with prostate cancer develop mouth sores that make chewing and swallowing painful, which can lead them to avoid eating. Even if the appetite is normal, most individuals with cancer lose weight and muscle mass because cancer affects the way the body absorbs food, and also because the body burns calories faster than normal. Weight loss can also be a side effect from anti-cancer treatments. Individuals experiencing other symptoms of prostate cancer may feel anxious about their symptoms and lose their appetite. Others may eat less to avoid issues with bowel control and lose weight as a result.
When a person feels fatigued, a good night's sleep does not remedy the issue. Fatigue is a common symptom of many serious illnesses, and cancer-related fatigue often results in a significant loss of energy. The individual may feel too tired to eat, dress, bathe, or carry out other daily activities. Anemia, pain, sleep problems, and emotional distress contribute to this symptom.
Many men experience bone pain in the advanced stages of prostate cancer. Most describe it as a dull, deep pain, similar to a toothache, that occurs in the back, hips, ribs, or groin. This usually indicates that cancer has spread to the bones, a condition called bone metastases. This can cause severe pain and bone fractures. Doctors usually prescribe pain medications and radiation therapy to treat the condition. Prescription medication to prevent bone fragility can help prevent fractures.
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