Prostate cancer is one of the leading cancers in men. 2013 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 176,450 men in the United States were diagnosed with the cancer that year. Knowing and detecting the possible symptoms of prostate cancer is one way to take action. Symptoms may include:

  • urinary symptoms
  • sexual dysfunction
  • pain

Learn more about these early symptoms of prostate cancer, as well as when it’s time to take action.

Prostate cancer shares many similar symptoms with benign diseases of the prostate. The earliest prostate cancer symptoms are often urinary. Warning signs can include:

  • frequent urination
  • urination that burns
  • difficulty with starting urine flow
  • weak flow, or “dribbling”
  • blood in the urine

Many of these symptoms can be indicative of noncancerous diseases of the prostate, a gland located near the bladder in men. These include an enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and prostatitis, which is an inflamed prostate gland, usually due to infection.

Learn more: What’s the difference between prostatitis and BPH? »

Unlike prostate cancer, BPH and prostatitis usually don’t cause bloody urine. If you see blood in your urine, call your doctor for an evaluation right away.

The prostate gland plays a key role in the male reproductive system, so it’s not surprising that prostate cancer can cause sexual dysfunction. Men may have problems getting or maintaining an erection, or experience painful ejaculation. Some men with early prostate cancer experience no symptoms.

Because of changes in hormone levels, sexual dysfunction becomes more common with age. Still, you shouldn’t brush off erectile dysfunction or other symptoms as a result of aging. Tests can help determine whether your symptoms are cancerous or not.

Once prostate cancer spreads, it can cause pain in and around the area of the prostate gland. Men with the disease can also experience pain in other areas:

  • hips
  • lower back
  • pelvis
  • upper thighs

Pain is also likely to occur in multiple areas. For example, you might experience painful urination in conjunction with pelvic pain. Any ongoing, or chronic, pain should be assessed by a doctor to rule out serious health problems.

It’s a good idea to call your doctor if you experience symptoms of prostate cancer, even if they’re mild. As a rule of thumb, the National Cancer Institute recommends that men who are in their 30s or 40s see a doctor immediately if they experience any prostate cancer symptoms. While these symptoms don’t necessarily indicate prostate cancer, noncancerous prostate problems usually occur in men after the age of 50.

Symptoms like bloody discharge or extreme pain may warrant an immediate cancer screening.

Getting regular cancer screenings is also important, particularly if there’s a history of the disease in your family. Men with brothers or fathers with prostate cancer are up to three times more likely to develop the disease. Your risk may also be greater if breast cancer runs in your family. Sharing this information with your doctor can help you get timely testing done should any suspicious symptoms arise.

The majority of prostate cancer cases continue to be diagnosed during routine checkups. This can lead to a late diagnosis, in which the cancer has already progressed to a more advanced stage. Like many forms of cancer, the earlier prostate cancer is detected, the better the outlook.

It’s possible to have prostate cancer, BPH, and prostatitis at the same time. Still, this doesn’t mean having a noncancerous prostate disease increases your risk for developing prostate cancer.

The best way to protect yourself is to pay attention to your symptoms earlier rather than later. Being proactive can lead to earlier treatment and a better outlook.

Learn more about prostate cancer »