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Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer | CBHS Health Fund

16 June, 2016
Doctor explaining to patient signs of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer in Australia

With the risk of getting prostate cancer estimated to be 1 in 7 men diagnosed by age 75 and 1 in 5 by 85, it’d be fair to expect conversation surrounding the disease to be flowing. But unfortunately, prostate cancer still isn’t spoken about as often as other types of cancers, despite being the second most common cancer in men. 

The lack of conversation and information about prostate cancer could pose significant health risks for men who might be unsure of what to look out for or when they should discuss prostate cancer screening with their doctor. This is especially problematic considering symptoms might not start until the cancer is advanced. A recent American study also shows that nearly 70% of men ignore the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer.

To increase awareness about the signs and signs of prostate cancer, it’s important to talk about potential symptoms and risk factors. So what are the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer?

Early signs and symptoms of prostate cancer

Cancer of the prostate is often slow-growing and signs and symptoms may not occur for years, when the cancer has become large enough to put pressure on the urethra. Men with early stages of prostate cancer may not have any signs or symptoms. 

The signs and symptoms of prostate cancer can include any of the following:
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Frequent urine passing (especially at night)
  • The feeling of not completely emptying your bladder
  • Needing to rush to the toilet to prevent an accident
  • Decreased flow or velocity of urine stream
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Blood in the urine or semen (not very common)
  • Pain when passing urine or ejaculating (not very common)
For a small number of men, the first symptom of prostate cancer may be pain in the legs, back or hips. This is because advanced prostate cancer can sometimes spread to the bones. 

Late signs and symptoms of prostate cancer

Late signs and symptoms occur as the cancer grows larger or spreads to other parts of the body. Late signs of prostate cancer can include:
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Low red blood cell count (anaemia)
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Early prostate cancer screening

Although symptoms might not be present in the early stages, it’s possible to detect the cancer with prostate cancer screenings. Being aware of some of the risk factors can help you determine an appropriate prostate cancer screening schedule with your doctor. 

Common risk factors for prostate cancer include:

Age: The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age, but that’s not to mean it's an “old man’s disease”. About 6 in 10 men are diagnosed when they’re over 65, although men in their 40s and 50s can also be diagnosed with prostate cancer. 

Family history:
Men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer if an immediate blood relative (such as a father or brother) also has or had prostate cancer. If another member of the family has also been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the chances of getting it can increase more. 

Diet: A diet high in saturated fats increases the risk of prostate cancer, as does obesity. 

High testosterone levels: Men who use testosterone therapy are more likely to develop prostate cancer, as an increase in testosterone stimulates the growth of the prostate gland. 

Visiting your doctor

If you’re concerned about prostate cancer symptoms you might be experiencing, or some of the risk factors, speak to your doctor and get checked out. After getting your family history and information about symptoms, your doctor is likely to perform a blood test called a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) level. Depending upon your blood test results and medical history, your GP may refer you to a Urologist for further review. 

Historically, GPs tended to perform a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) for routine prostate screening. However, these are no longer performed on a routine basis, as a lot of men used to put off having a prostate check because of the exam. The exams are now primarily done by a Urologist when they are considering the next step in managing an elevated PSA result. 

Depending upon your individual circumstances, your specialist may perform a transrectal ultrasound of the prostate, or they may move straight to performing a prostate biopsy, when a hollow needle will be inserted into the prostate through the wall of the rectum to collect about a dozen tissue samples for testing. 

A cancer prevention plan

The cause of prostate cancer is unknown and there is currently no single test to detect it. Australian guidelines recommend that men between 50 and 69 years old have a PSA test every two years. 

If you have no symptoms and are thinking about having a PSA test, speak to your doctor. They will be able to discuss your potential risk factors and options for prostate cancer testing and prevention.


All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies.

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