Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer often grows slowly. Symptoms may not develop for many years as these only happen when the cancer is large enough to press on the urethra.

Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer often grows slowly. Prostate cancer symptoms may not develop for many years. Men with early prostate cancer may not have any symptoms, as these only happen when the cancer is large enough to press on the tube that carries the urine from the bladder out of the penis (urethra). The prostate gland can also become enlarged due to a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is non-cancerous.

The symptoms of benign (non-cancerous) enlargement of the prostate and prostate cancer are similar. They can include:

  • difficulty urinating – for example, a weak flow or having to strain to start peeing
  • needing to urinate more often than usual, especially at night
  • feeling like you have not completely emptied your bladder after peeing
  • an urgent need to pee
  • blood in the urine or semen
  • rarely, pain when peeing or ejaculating.

If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to have them checked by your doctor.

If you have any of the urinary problems mentioned here, it is important to have them checked by your doctor.

We understand that showing any symptoms of what could be cancer is worrying. The most important thing is to speak to your GP as soon as possible. We're also here if you need someone to talk to. You can:

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Signs and symptoms of advanced prostate cancer

Prostate cancer may spread to bones such as the spine, pelvis, thigh bone (femur) or ribs. It may affect different areas of the bones rather than only one area.

Pain

The first sign of a secondary cancer in the bones is usually an ache in the bone. This is often in the hips or in the back. The pain gradually gets worse over a few weeks. You may have pain during the day but also at night, making it difficult to sleep. You usually need to take painkillers to help you. Other types of pain not caused by cancer may feel different. For example, pain from arthritis is often worse early in the morning and is not there all the time.

A secondary cancer in the bone may gradually make the bone weaker. Pain and weakness can make getting around difficult. Bones that are very weak may break (fracture) more easily. There are treatments you can have to help strengthen the bones and reduce pain.

You can find out more about the physical impacts of cancer and its treatments.

Spinal cord compression

If the bones in the spine have cancer in them, the cancer may press on the spinal cord. This is called spinal cord compression.

It usually affects your legs and may cause:

  • pain
  • weakness
  • numbness or tingling in your legs.

Spinal cord compression is not common. But if you notice these symptoms, you should contact your doctors straight away – even at the weekend or during a holiday period. If you cannot contact your GP or cancer doctor, you should go to the nearest emergency department (A&E).

We have more information about spinal cord compression.

Anaemia

Prostate cancer can sometimes spread from the bone into the bone marrow. Bone marrow is the spongy material in the centre of our bones where our blood cells are made. This includes red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. If the bone marrow cannot produce enough red blood cells, you may become anaemic. This can make you feel very tired and breathless, and you may look very pale.

Other symptoms

Prostate cancer can sometimes spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, or liver. If you notice any new symptoms that last for 2 weeks or more, you should talk to your cancer specialist.

It is important to remember that any of the symptoms mentioned here can be caused by problems other than cancer.

Going to the GP

If you are worried about prostate cancer or prostate problems, it is important to visit your doctor. We have information about diagnosing prostate cancer and general information about going for tests.

Most men who get prostate cancer do not have a family history of it. Getting older is much more likely to be a significant risk factor. We have more information about the causes and risk factors of prostate cancer. If you are worried about having any risk factors, you should speak to your doctor.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our prostate cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    European Association of Urologists. Guidelines on Prostate Cancer. 2016.

    European Society for Medical Oncology. Cancer of the prostate: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. 2015.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Prostate cancer overview. Available from: pathways.nice.org.uk/pathways/prostate-cancer (accessed from March 2017 to November 2017).

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Surveillance report 2016. Prostate cancer: diagnosis and management (2014). NICE guideline CG175. 2016.



  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editors, Dr Jim Barber, Consultant Clinical Oncologist and Dr Lisa Pickering, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.