Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, with one in nine being diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime. “Next to skin cancer, [prostate cancer] is the most common cancer found in American men,” says Dr. David Greuner, MD, of NYC Surgical Associates.
In fact, before you even experience any prostate problems, you should check in with your physician to make sure you’ve got regular screenings scheduled. “Routine screenings for prostate cancer are important because symptoms aren’t always apparent in the early stages of the disease,” says Dr. Greuner. “Beginning at age 50, it’s best to talk with your doctor and make an informed decision about whether or not you should undergo testing.”
And while prostate cancer’s survivability rates are high, particularly when detected early, many individuals at risk for this life-altering disease don’t know the first thing about its symptoms. Before you brush off sudden aches and pains, make sure you know these prostate cancer warning signs hiding in plain sight—and get to your doctor immediately if any of them apply to you.
Pain during urination.
If you find yourself feeling some pain when you use the bathroom, it’s time to get to the doctor. According to Dr. Greuner, this is a particularly common sign of prostate cancer—and one that can easily be mistaken for something else.
Burning during urination.
The same goes for burning during urination. While burning during urination can be a sign of an infection of the urinary tract, kidneys, or bladder, as well as certain STIs, it can also be a symptom of prostate cancer. As the cancer causes enlargement of your prostate, it can put pressure on the surrounding tissues, thus causing some serious pain when you urinate.
Loss of bladder control.
While many people assume that everyone develops a weaker bladder as they age, that’s far from universally true. What’s more, if you’re experiencing a sudden loss of bladder control, it could be a sign of prostate cancer. As your prostate enlarges, it can cause pressure on your bladder, making it harder to hold it until you can reach a bathroom.
More frequent urination at night.
If you used to be able to down a glass of water before bed and still sleep through the night, but you’re suddenly finding yourself heading to the bathroom multiple times after you hit the hay, it’s time to speak to your doctor about your symptoms. Prostate cancer can cause increasingly frequent urination, particularly at night, so there’s no reason to wait to have this symptom addressed. Even if it’s not prostate cancer, increased urinary frequency can also be a sign of diabetes, so it always merits a trip to your GP.
Trouble starting or stopping urination.
If you’re having difficulty either starting or stopping your urinary flow, your doctor needs to know about it. As prostate tumors press on your bladder and surrounding tissues, it can become increasingly difficult to control your urination. And even if it’s not prostate cancer causing your problem, this symptom is certainly pesky enough to merit a trip to see a medical professional.
If your romantic routine has turned from something fun to something that leaves you in pain, you should be high-tailing it to your doctor to get checked out. According to Dr. Greuner, prostate cancer can make even formerly pleasurable sexual experiences sudden sources of pain—in part because of the pressure an enlarged prostate can put on the surrounding tissues and the prostate’s role in creating semen. So make sure you get checked out if you’re experiencing this surprising symptom.
If you’re having trouble rising to the occasion in the bedroom, that may be a sign you’re dealing with a serious prostate health issue, says Dr. Greuner. And while you should never delay treatment when you’re potentially dealing with something as serious as prostate cancer, don’t assume that your treatment will immediately fix the issue. Unfortunately, for some patients, chemotherapy and surgery can heal the cancer, but only prolong a person’s erectile problems.
Swelling in your legs.
Are your legs looking a little (or a lot) bigger than you remembered them being? If so, it’s time to get your prostate checked out. Swelling in your legs due to a buildup of fluid caused by lymph node damage—otherwise known as lymphedema—can be a sign of prostate cancer, says Dr. Greuner. That said, removing the cancer won’t necessarily remedy things as fast as you might hope: Many people find that prostate surgery and cancer treatment can spur lymphedema or extend its duration.
Swelling in your pelvic area.
Similarly, if you’re noticing swelling in your pelvic region, prostate cancer could be to blame. Lymphedema, while most common in the extremities, can also strike in other parts of the body, like the abdomen, so make sure you get seen as soon as possible if you’re looking a little swollen around the middle.
Weakness in your legs.
Do you feel like your legs could give out on you at virtually any moment, despite maintaining your normal gym routine? It could be your prostate. When a prostate tumor pushes on your spinal cord, it can cause weakness in your legs, making it difficult to walk or maintain your coordination.
Numbness in your legs.
Weakness isn’t the only way prostate cancer can affect your legs, however. Prostate tumors can also have a pronounced effect on the nearby nerves, often leading to numbness in the legs that can make it difficult to move freely.
Those aches and pains in your bones could be more than just a sign you’re getting older. As prostate cancer metastasizes, it can affect your bones, causing pain, weakness, or, as the disease progresses further, can even lead to fractures.
Stiffness in your back.
That back pain might not be solely the result of bad posture at work or poor form in the weight room. Prostate cancer, along with the associated swelling and spinal pressure, can wreak havoc on your back. However, there are countless other causes of back pain, from slipped discs to muscle strain, but they all deserve a good look from a professional.
Unexplained weight loss.
While losing weight without trying may seem like a dream to some people, it can also signal a serious medical condition. Unexplained weight loss can often occur prior to a prostate cancer diagnosis, so if you’ve suddenly dropped a size or two without any extra effort, it’s time to see your doctor.
Tingling in your feet.
The symptoms of that nerve pain and spinal compression from prostate tumors extend well past your legs. If you’re experiencing sudden pins-and-needles feelings in your feet, it’s time to get to your doctor. Even if it’s not prostate cancer, diabetes can also cause similar symptoms, so don’t let this symptom slide.
Blood in urine.
Though blood in your urine can have a number of causes, from injury to infection, it can also be a sign of prostate cancer. Regardless of what’s causing it, considering how quickly both cancer and infection can spread, you don’t want to hesitate when it comes to seeing your doctor the first time you spot this symptom.
Numbness in your hips.
That sudden fuzzy feeling around your middle? It’s more than just that spare tire you’re sporting after a few too many slices of pizza. Numbness in your hips and abdomen can be a sign of prostate cancer, whether it’s caused by a tumor pressing on your spinal cord or lymphedema-associated nerve damage.
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