The second-most common cancer among men in the United States is prostate cancer, affecting nearly 200,000 new people each year. While 60% of people diagnosed with this cancer are over the age of 65, prostate cancer can strike at any age.
Is prostate cancer treatable?
Fortunately, prostate cancer is often quite treatable, especially when caught early enough.
What are the signs of prostate cancer?
Catching prostate cancer early is the best way to beat it. So, just what are the symptoms that someone may have this form of cancer? If you’re running to the bathroom more frequently than usual, it could be cause for concern…
1. Frequent Urination
Those who find themseves:
- urinating more frequently than usual, especially at night
- having a weaker urine flow
- straining to empty the bladder
should take note, as these signs all point to prostate cancer.
Why does prostate cancer affect urination?
It all has to do with location. Namely, the prostate is close to the bladder and urethra. So, any tumor in that area may restrict urine flow and irritate the bladder wall. This irritation may cause more frequent bladder contractions, leading to an increased sensation of needing to urinate.
However, the prostate, bladder, and urethra aren’t the only areas of the body that may be affected by prostate cancer…
2. Back Pain
In advanced stages, prostate cancer may cause pain when sitting or standing.
Why does prostate cancer cause back pain?
The short answer
Back pain usually occurs when prostate cancer grows out of the prostate.
The long answer
In its advanced stages (typically stage 4), cancer cells spread beyond the prostate to other body parts. Among the first parts to be affected are the bones, referred to as bone metastasis.
When prostate cancer spreads to the hip bone, ribs, and spinal cord, back pain starts. The pain continues to increase in severity as the cancer worsens.
Cancer or something else?
Back pain may be caused by many other conditions, not necessarily prostate cancer. It is therefore essential to see your physician whenever you experience back pains, especially when there is no apparent cause to the pain.
When cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it can result in symptoms beyond just back pain, such as the following…
3. Losing Bowel Control
While not an incredibly common symptom of prostate cancer, some people do report this unfortunate side effect.
Why does prostate cancer cause this symptom?
When cancer spreads to the rectum (which is very close to the prostrate), it may cause loss of bowel control, causing the patient to pass stool uncontrollably. Spreading of cancer may also affect nerves in the region, leading to nerve damage and subsequent loss of bowel control.
These signs may also occur as a result of cancer treatment, such as surgery or radiation therapy.
Is this symptom permanent?
Loss of bowel and bladder control usually stops on its own after treatment, but in some cases, the nerves and muscles that control these functions may be permanently damaged.
Fortunately, the following symptom of prostate cancer nearly always clears after treatment…
4. Low Libido and Erectile Dysfunction
As cancer develops, a patient may experience a loss in sexual interest and/or erectile dysfunction due to low libido.
Why does prostate cancer cause low libido/erectile dysfunction?
When diagnosed with prostate cancer, a patient may develop low self-esteem, anxiety, or even feel tired most of the time; all these of factors have a significant effect on one’s sex life. In most cases, they disrupt sex drive.
Another cause of erectile dysfunction and low libido? Treatment. Most often, this treatment is hormone therapy, although radiotherapy (radiation therapy) and surgery can also cause erectile dysfunction.
When do these symptoms resolve?
These issues typically resolve naturally after treatment, but you may also take medication prescribed by your physician to help curb erectile dysfunction and low libido.
5. Swelling and Weakness in Legs and Feet
Swelling in legs and feet are most commonly associated with later stages of prostate cancer.
Why does prostate cancer lead to swelling?
As cancerous tumors grow, they can push on the spine, meaning pushing on certain nerves. The result? Symptoms that include weakness or even swelling in the legs or feet. In some cases, the swelling may also develop in the pelvic area.
The following symptom of this kind of cancer? It’s also common with many STDs…
6. Painful Ejaculation and Bloody Semen
Many patients who have prostate cancer experience pain when ejaculating.
What causes painful ejaculation in prostate cancer patients?
As the cancerous tumor spreads out from the prostate, it can push against the ureters (tubes connecting kidneys and the bladder) and urethra. That means…
The resulting pressure leads to irritation within these tubes, and that may cause blood capillaries to rapture, thus spilling blood. When blood is present in this area, it typically exits the body via urine, although it may also exit the body through semen.
When ejaculating, the irritation within the urethra and ureter causes pain.
Does painful ejaculation always mean bloody semen?
No, painful ejaculation is not always accompanied by blood in semen.
Of course, this blood may exit the body in fluids besides just semen…
7. Presence of Blood in Urine
Most commonly, blood from ruptured vessels in the ureter or surrounding area will exit the body via urine.
What does this symptom look like?
The presence of blood in urine is referred to as hematuria. Instead of the standard pale color of urine, you may notice the color being pink, red tea-colored, or brownish-red.
Can this symptom always be spotted with the naked eye?
Sometimes, it may not be detected by the naked eye, although a lab test will detect it.
Why does prostate cancer cause blood to appear in urine?
Blood in the urine is a result of damage to the kidneys or other parts of the urinary tract like the urethra and ureter.
Many of the previous symptoms have been signs of advanced cancer. However, the following symptom typically presents quite early…
Fatigue is more than just feeling tired. It is the sensation of intense, 24/7 exhaustion that occurs no matter how much you rest. Oftentimes, fatigue results in secondary symptoms like difficulty concentrating.
Why does prostate cancer cause fatigue?
The primary reason cancer causes fatigue? It’s simply because cancer is incredibly taxing on the body. In other words, the body spends lots and lots of its resources fighting the cancer, which can leave you feeling quite exhausted.
Fatigue is a common symptom of most kinds of cancer, as is the following…
9. Unexplained Weight Loss
Weight loss is common with many kinds of cancer, prostate cancer included.
Why does prostate cancer cause weight loss?
Experts aren’t quite sure why, but prostate cancer can affect appetite or even how certain foods taste; both of these sensations can mean eating less. As a result of the reduced-calorie and mineral intake, you start losing weight.
Is this symptom dangerous?
This symptom is especially dangerous because maintaining healthy body weight is essential to battling cancer.
Given the very nature of prostate cancer, it’s likely that the following sensation may also develop…
10. Difficulty sitting down
Many prostate cancer patients experience difficulty sitting upright due to pain in the hip and lower spine. These sensations can range from mild irritation to severe pain.
Why is it so difficult for prostate cancer patients to sit down?
There are two primary reasons why this kind of cancer can make it difficult to remain seated.
As prostate cancer spreads to the bones, pain starts to develop. The pain worsens while sitting because this position applies a lot of pressure to these bones.
This pain may also be caused by the enlarged prostate. Namely, when seated, painful pressure is applied to the enlarged prostate…
11. Enlarged Prostate
Perhaps the single-most classic sign of prostate cancer is an enlargement of the prostate itself.
Cancer or something else?
The prostate is a gland that surrounds the urethra. For older men, an enlarged prostate usually means that the gland has simply grown bigger and is usually not cancerous. However, for young men, an enlarged prostate may be malignant.
It is therefore necessary to see your physician whenever you notice your prostate getting larger to rule out the possibility of cancer.
How does prostate cancer cause enlargement of the prostate?
Cancer leads to the formation of tumors as cancerous cells clump together. Naturally, prostate cancer begins in the prostate; hence, the prostate is usually the most affected part. As tumors in the prostate continue to grow, they become more and more visible. This growth may be observed as a lump protruding from the prostate. In some cases, the prostate itself may simply appear larger.
The most alarming sign of all?
The following might just be the single-most alarming sign of prostate cancer of them all…
What is jaundice?
Jaundice is a condition in which the whites of the eyes and the skin become yellow.
How does jaundice happen?
Jaundice develops when there is too much bilirubin in the blood. Now, bilirubin is the yellow pigment in hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that enables them to transport oxygen).
Why does prostate cancer cause jaundice?
Our bodies continuously make new red blood cells as the old ones break down. When old red blood cells break down, they release bilirubin into the blood. Typically, kidneys remove bilirubin from the blood.
That’s not the case with prostate cancer, though.
Once prostate cancer spreads to the kidneys, it reduces their functionality. In these cases, it’s much more difficult for kidneys to perform tasks like filter bilirubin from the blood. As a result, bilirubin in the blood can build up.
Because of the color of bilirubin, it can cause the skin and eyes of a prostate cancer patient to turn yellow.
It’s important to know the various stages of prostate cancer to better assess risks and symptoms…
Stages of Prostate Cancer
What are the stages of prostate cancer?
The stages of prostate cancer are:
A tumor grows incredibly slowly during this stage and the cells are differentiated, meaning the cancer is confined to a relatively small area and is less aggressive. In this stage, the cancer affects half of the prostate or less. Since this stage is so mild, most people cannot feel the cancer at this point.
At this stage, the tumor is still small and confined to the prostate. However, there is now an increased chance of the cancer growing and spreading.
Now the cancer is growing and likely to spread to other areas of the body.
Cancer has spread beyond the prostate, meaning it has metastasized. Notably, metastasized cancers are much harder to treat.
What’s most important for someone who thinks they have prostate cancer to know?…
Hearing your doctor say that you have cancer can be scary, but there are a few steps you can take to make battling cancer much more bearable. These steps include:
- Find someone to help you go through it. Cancer treatment can take its toll on you, both emotionally and physically. It is therefore vital to have someone to support you through it. This support can be in the form of family members, friends, or a cancer support group.
- Get organized. Get a notebook to schedule your doctors’ appointments and when you should take your medication.
- Get informed. Learn more about your cancer diagnosis and all treatment options available. You should also look at the best hospitals in your area that treat the type of cancer you have.
- Consider a second opinion. Cancer treatment is broad, meaning different doctors have different opinions on the best ways to treat it.
- Maintain a healthy diet and sleep schedule. Cancer treatment, along with prostate cancer itself, affects the body in many ways. It is therefore essential to maintain a healthy diet and sleep schedule, so that you have enough energy to fight the disease.
- Seek counselling. Having prostate cancer can take its toll on your emotional health. While family, friends, and support groups are excellent resources, they are not trained professionals. It is therefore recommended to seek counselling if you’re struggling with stress and depression.
Screening is key!
Prostate cancer is the second-most prevalent form of cancer affecting men in the United States. Its signs and symptoms can be often overlooked or misdiagnosed as another disease. It is, therefore, essential to get regular cancer screening tests, such as the PSA test.