The prostate is a gland that can be found in the male reproductive system, located beneath the urinary bladder and just in front of the rectum. It wraps around the urethra (the tube where urine and semen passes through to exit). The prostate’s main function is to secrete a fluid that protects, aids, and nourishes sperm cells in semen. It also helps in keeping semen fluid..
There are several types of prostate cancer but the most common type is known as adenocarcinoma. Almost all prostate cancers develop from the gland cells (gland cells are responsible for the fluid added to the semen). While some prostate cancers grow and spread aggressively, it is more usual for them to progress slowly. They often do not exhibit any symptoms, too, especially in the early stages. It is important to note that just because there are no symptoms, it doesn’t mean that there is no cancer. It’s possible for someone to have potentially life-threatening prostate cancer without experiencing any symptoms.
Symptoms may start showing, though, if the cancer is in its late stages or if the tumor causes the prostate to grow larger than normal, making it press against the urethra or block the bladder. However, an enlarged prostate could merely be a common condition called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). While BPH is not cancerous or life-threatening, it can be very uncomfortable and has symptoms similar to prostate cancer. It is beneficial to undergo regular tests because the earlier one is able to detect and diagnose prostate cancer, the sooner they can start treatment for it. While there is no set list of signs and symptoms to watch out for, there are some possible indicators of prostate cancer:
Urinary symptoms such as pain or a burning sensation while urinating, frequent urinating (especially at night), inability to urinate, incontinence, difficulty in starting or stopping the urine flow, and a weak urinary stream. These are commonly symptoms of BPH or an enlarged prostate so they may not necessarily relate to prostate cancer.
Keep an eye out for the presence of blood in the urine (hematuria). For those who already have prostate cancer, this usually means that the cancer has advanced and has possibly spread to the bladder or the bones. Impotence is another sign that the cancer has spread. Meanwhile, blood in semen is usually a symptom of prostatitis or inflammation of the prostate and is rarely a symptom of prostate cancer.
Chronic and deep bone pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs; numbness or weakness in the legs or feet; and loss of bladder or bowel control is indicative that the cancer is spreading beyond the prostate gland and into the bones. Another urgent emergency is spinal cord compression which happens when the cancer reaches the spine vertebrae and tailbone. This weakens the vertebrae and possibly cause the spinal cord to collapse.