What Are the Key Signs of Prostate Cancer?

Medically Reviewed on 2/17/2022

23 signs that may indicate prostate cancer

prostate cancer
Learn the 23 key signs that may indicate the presence of prostate cancer below.

Most patients do not have any signs or symptoms of prostate cancer until its advanced stages. Prostate cancer most commonly spreads to the bones; hence, bone pain is often a sign of prostate cancer. Many patients are diagnosed incidentally while being investigated for other conditions.

Furthermore, when present, the following 23 symptoms may indicate the presence of prostate cancer:

  1. Difficulty or pain while passing urine
  2. Thin urine stream or interrupted urine flow
  3. Urine urgency (a sudden urge to pass urine)
  4. Increased urine frequency particularly at night (nocturia)
  5. Burning while urinating
  6. Loss of bladder control
  7. Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  8. Blood in semen (hematospermia)
  9. Erectile dysfunction (inability to keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse)
  10. Painful ejaculation
  11. Decreased ejaculate volume
  12. Bone pains
  13. Unexplained weight loss
  14. Loss of appetite
  15. Increased fracture risk
  16. Back, pelvic, or hip pain that worsens or does not go away
  17. Swelling in the legs
  18. Fatigue
  19. Weakness
  20. Pale appearance
  21. Shortness of breath
  22. Palpitations
  23. Dizziness

The above signs are not exclusively seen in prostate cancer. They may be seen in many benign or noncancerous conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or urinary tract infection (UTI). Nonetheless, one must not delay consulting a doctor so that timely diagnosis and treatment may be done.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells starting in the prostate gland.

  • The prostate gland is a part of the male reproductive system.
  • This walnut-sized gland surrounds a part of the male urethra (the tube through which urine is voided) with the urinary bladder in front and the rectum behind.
  • It has several lobes covered in a tissue layer.
  • The gland secretes various substances that form semen.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer (first being skin cancer) affecting one in eight men in the United States. It causes about 268,500 cases and 34,500 deaths each year. 

Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death (the first being lung cancer) in males.

4 types of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is categorized into various types based on the cells from which it arises. 

Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of prostate cancer accounting for over 95 percent of all prostate cancer cases. This cancer arises from the gland cells in the prostate lobules that secrete fluid that forms the semen.

Other types of prostate cancer include:

  1. Small cell carcinomas
  2. Neuroendocrine tumors (other than small cell carcinomas)
  3. Transitional cell carcinomas
  4. Sarcomas

Knowing the type of prostate cancer helps the doctor plan treatment and predict the outlook or prognosis. Most prostate cancers are slow-growing and rarely cause any life-threatening consequences.


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

What causes prostate cancer?

The exact cause of prostate cancer is not known, however, advancing age is the most important risk factor for this cancer.

  • It results when there is an abnormal change (called a mutation) in the genetic material (DNA) in a cell in the prostate gland.
  • The abnormal cell then starts growing and producing more cells of its kind uncontrollably, forming cancer.
  • The consequent abnormal cells (that have no function in the body) have an increased need for nutrients that deprive the healthy cells of nourishment causing metabolic starvation.

Certain conditions may increase the risk of prostate cancer, such as:

  • Older age: The risk of prostate cancer is higher in older men and is rarely seen in men younger than 40 years. About 60 percent of prostate cancer cases are diagnosed in men who are 65 years or older.
  • Genetics: Certain genetic abnormalities, such as BRCA or BRCA2, CHECK2, RAD15, or ATM gene mutations, may increase prostate cancer risk. Men who have a family history of prostate cancer may be at a higher risk of developing the disease. The risk is higher in men whose brothers may have prostate cancer than those whose fathers had the disease.
  • Ethnicity: African American and Caribbean men and men of African ancestry are more likely to get prostate cancer than men of other ethnicities.
  • Geography: The prevalence of prostate cancer is more in men in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and Caribbean islands, and it is less common in Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America.
  • Smoking: Smoking may increase the risk of dying from prostate cancer.
  • Obesity: Obese individuals may have a slightly higher risk of getting a more aggressive form of prostate cancer.
  • Diet: Although there is no strong evidence, men who consume dairy products and red meats in excess may have a higher risk of prostate cancer.

How is prostate cancer treated?

The treatment of prostate cancer depends on various factors, such as:

  • The age at diagnosis
  • The stage of the cancer
  • The severity of the symptoms
  • Patient preferences

Treatment generally includes:

  • Active surveillance: In this approach, no treatment is provided to treat cancer, but the doctor regularly conducts tests to check for the growth of cancer. This may be done when the cancer is localized and slow-growing. Regular monitoring helps initiate timely treatment if cancer turns aggressive. This is because, in some cases, this cancer is extremely slow-growing.
  • Watchful waiting: In this approach, only symptomatic treatment is provided without doing any tests. It may be done in men who are expected to live for 10 years or less.
  • Surgery: The prostate gland may be removed with or without the removal of the surrounding tissues.
  • Radiation therapy: High-energy radiation may be administered to destroy cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: The cancer cells may be killed via drugs.
  • Hormone therapy: It involves administering medications that block the effect of hormones (androgens) that cause cancer growth.
  • Biological therapy: It involves using the body’s immunity to kill cancer cells.
  • High-intensity focused ultrasound: It involves using high-energy sound waves to kill cancer cells.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/17/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What Are the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer? https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/basic_info/symptoms.htm

Taplin M-A, Smith JA. Clinical presentation and diagnosis of prostate cancer. UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-presentation-and-diagnosis-of-prostate-cancer#H2335184355

Tracy CR. Prostate Cancer Clinical Presentation. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1967731-clinical

National Institutes of Health. Prostate Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version. https://www.cancer.gov/types/prostate/patient/prostate-treatment-pdq