The Early Signs of Prostate Cancer

Medically Reviewed on 11/16/2021
Prostate cancer in its early stages usually causes no signs and symptoms
Prostate cancer in its early stages usually causes no signs and symptoms.

Prostate cancer in its early stages usually causes no signs and symptoms. Screening can help detect the cancer early. More advanced prostate cancers can sometimes give rise to the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty in passing urine
  • A slow or weak urinary stream 
  • Need to urinate more often, especially at night (nocturnal)
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Erectile dysfunction or ED (difficulty in getting an erection)
  • Painful ejaculation (pain while having intercourse)
  • Pain in the bones (due to the spread of cancer)
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet 
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

These symptoms can be due to reasons other than prostate cancer. For example, trouble urinating is much more often caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is a noncancerous growth of the prostate.

Who is at high risk for prostate cancer?

All men are at risk for prostate cancer. Thirteen out of every 100 American men will get prostate cancer, and about two to three men will die from it.

The most common risk factor is age. As the age advances, the risk of a man getting prostate cancer increases. 

Other factors that put a man at high risk for prostate cancer include:

  • African American men: They are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as white men and tend to get prostate cancer at a younger age.
  • Family history of prostate cancer: Men who have a father, brother, or son diagnosed with or with a history of prostate cancer have a greater risk of getting prostate cancer.
  • Genetic makeup: Men with inherited mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes or with Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, or HNPCC)

The effects of several risk factors that increase the risk of prostate cancer are not clear, although a small number of studies have suggested their association with prostate cancer. These include:

  • Inflammation of the prostate (Prostatitis)
  • Excess of calcium in diet or through supplements
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to certain chemicals (evidence shows increased incidence in firefighters who are exposed to toxins released by fire)


Prostate Illustrion Browse through our medical image collection to see illustrations of human anatomy and physiology See Images

How is a prostate cancer screening done?

Screening for prostate cancer means finding out if someone has cancer before cancer causes symptoms. When detected early, it can be treated before it spreads to other organs.

There is no standard screening test for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer screening is done using the following tests:

  • Digital rectal examination (DRE): This test is done at the doctor’s clinic. The doctor inserts his finger into your anus and reaches your rectum to feel for any cancerous growth in your prostate.
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test: This is a blood test that measures the blood levels of PSA, a substance made by your prostate. The higher levels of PSA are suggestive of cancer. But there are other conditions as well when PSA levels are high. If your doctor suspects cancer, they might order a biopsy of the prostate.

How can I prevent prostate problems naturally?

There is no sure way to prevent prostate problems such as prostate cancer. Many risk factors such as age, race, and family history can’t be controlled. But some of the studies suggest a few ways that can help keep the prostate healthy and prevent prostate cancer naturally. These include:

  • Keep your weight under control
  • Stay physically active
  • Follow a healthy eating pattern that includes
    • A variety of colorful fruits and vegetables and whole grains
    • Healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados.
    • Avoid or limit the consumption of red meat (such as beef, pork, lamb, and goat) and processed meats (such as bologna and hot dogs), sugar-sweetened beverages (like sodas), fast foods, and packaged foods
    • Cutting down on salt
    • Being watchful of how much you eat to avoid overeating (stop eating when you are full)
  • Limit calcium from diet and supplements
  • Limit soy and isoflavones in foods or supplements

Some early studies had suggested that taking vitamin E or selenium supplements might lower prostate cancer risk. But a larger study (SELECT) conducted later found that they are of no use in preventing prostate cancer. Hence, you need to discuss with your doctor before you start taking any such supplements.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/16/2021
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Sritharan J, Pahwa M, Demers PA, Harris SA, Cole DC, Parent ME. Prostate cancer in firefighting and police work: a systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies. Environ Health. 2017;16(1):124. Published 2017 Nov 17. doi:10.1186/s12940-017-0336-z