Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in men in the United State. It develops in the prostate gland and, in the very earliest stages, is generally completely asymptomatic. But it is in these early stages that the cancer is the most treatable, so early detection is critical to achieving good outcomes. When considering prostate cancer signs, it’s important to consider both the symptoms of prostate cancer and the risk factors for prostate cancer, as both may encourage physicians and patients to undergo screening.
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
Early prostate cancer usually has no clear symptoms, but may be detected in routine PSA screenings and digital rectal exams (DREs). It’s important to note, however, that neither of these screening methods is definitive on its own. PSA levels may indicate cancer under the following conditions:
- High PSA levels that are out of sync with the norms for the patient’s age group.
- A low ratio of free PSA to total PSA
- Substantial and significant changes in PSA levels over time
If any of these PSA results are found, especially in individuals who are at high risk for developing prostate cancer, further testing is warranted before cancer can be diagnosed.
As prostate cancer progresses, symptoms begin to appear, including the following:
- Difficulty urinating
- Weak urine stream
- Blood appearing in the semen
- Discomfort or pain in the pelvic region
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
Because prostate cancer causes are not fully understood, risk factors for prostate cancer are an important component of detection and diagnosis, especially in early detection. Advanced age, first-degree relatives with the disease, and racial background are all signs of prostate cancer risk being elevated. Approximately 99% of all cases of prostate cancer occur in men who are over 50 years of age and men living in the US with a first-degree relative with prostate cancer are at 2 to 3 times the risk of contracting the disease. It’s also significantly more common in the US for African American men to contract cancer of the prostate. In addition to age, race, and genetics, a diet high in meat and low in veggies is also associated with higher risk.
Men who are experiencing symptoms or who are just at an elevated risk should all undergo regular PSA screenings and DREs. A definitive diagnosis is obtained by biopsy followed by advanced medical imaging. Work carefully with your doctor to determine the best course of action for you.