Prostate cancer usually doesn’t cause symptoms until it’s grown large enough to press against your urethra. When this happens, you may have symptoms such as trouble urinating or not feeling like you’ve completely emptied your bladder.

Your prostate is a walnut-sized organ located below your bladder and in front of your rectum. The American Cancer Society estimates that 268,490 men will receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2022.

When you develop prostate cancer, your prostate can squeeze your urethra and lead to symptoms such as frequent urination or weak urine flow. Your urethra is the tube that travels from your bladder to your penis. It passes through your prostate.

If the cancer spreads beyond your prostate, you can develop general problems such as unintentional weight loss or bone pain.

Keep reading to learn more about the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer.

Language matters

In this article, we talk about the symptoms of prostate cancer in people assigned male at birth.

It’s important to note that not everyone assigned male at birth identifies with the label “male.” However, at times we use “male” or “men” to reflect the language in a study or statistic or to make sure people can find this article with the terms they search.

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Prostate cancer usually doesn’t cause any symptoms until the cancer is big enough to put pressure on your urethra. Most of the symptoms of prostate cancer are more likely to be caused by something other than cancer.

According to the National Health Service, symptoms can include:

Other symptoms can include:

  • pain or burning while urinating
  • pain when sitting from an enlarged prostate

Indications that your cancer may have spread to other parts of your body include:

Similar conditions

Prostate cancer symptoms can mimic those of other prostate conditions. As many as 80% to 90% of men in their 70s experience benign prostatic hyperplasia, or an enlarged prostate. This condition can cause many of the same symptoms as prostate cancer but usually doesn’t require treatment.

Other conditions that can cause similar symptoms as prostate cancer include:

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Age is the primary risk factor for prostate cancer. About 99% of prostate cancers occur in men over 50. About 60% of prostate cancers are in men over 65.

Other risk factors include:

  • Ethnicity: Compared with people of other ethnicities, African American men develop and die about twice as often from prostate cancer. They also tend to:
    • develop prostate cancer at a younger age
    • have a more advanced stage of cancer when it’s found
    • have a more severe type of prostate cancer
  • Family history: Men with a close relative with prostate cancer such as a son, father, or brother tend to be more likely to develop prostate cancer. Some gene mutations inherited from your parents such as those in BRCA1 or BRCA2 are linked to an increased chance of developing prostate cancer.
  • Diet: According to the American Cancer Society, some evidence suggests that men who eat very high amounts of dairy seem to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer.
  • Obesity: Current evidence suggests that people who have obesity don’t develop prostate cancer more frequently, but they may have a higher risk of getting more aggressive cancer.

It’s a good idea to contact a doctor if you notice any potential symptoms of prostate cancer, even if the symptoms don’t seem serious. It’s especially important to see a doctor if you notice blood in your urine since it can also be a symptom of a serious kidney or bladder condition.

Most prostate cancers are found with screening. The two main tests doctors use to screen for prostate cancer are a digital rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen blood test.

A definitive diagnosis is made with a prostate biopsy, where a doctor removes a small sample of cells for lab analysis.

Are certain types of prostate cancer more aggressive than others?

Almost all prostate cancers occur in people over the age of 50. Prostate cancers that occur in younger people are often more aggressive.

The majority of prostate cancers are classified as adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma that starts in the ducts of your prostate gland tends to be more aggressive than adenocarcinomas that start in gland cells.

If my father had prostate cancer, am I likely to get it?

Having a sibling or parent with prostate cancer more than doubles your risk of developing it too. Having a brother affected increases your risk more than having a father affected. Your risk is much higher if you’ve had several relatives with prostate cancer, especially if they were young when they were diagnosed.

Are there yearly recommended screenings for prostate cancer?

There are various schools of thought on when to begin prostate cancer screening and how often it should be done. The consensus is that all men should first have a conversation with a doctor about the risks and benefits of screening.

The American Cancer Society recommends that the discussion about screening should take place at:

  • age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer (and expected to live at least 10 more years)
  • age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer (including African Americans and men with a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 65)
  • age 40 for men with more than one first degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 65

Learn more about prostate cancer screening.

Can trans women develop prostate cancer?

Trans women who have a prostate can develop prostate cancer, but there’s little research available examining their risk.

In a 2022 study, researchers analyzed risk in 2,281 trans women who visited one clinic in the Netherlands from 1972 to 2016. They found women receiving androgen deprivation therapy and estrogens had a sustainably lower risk of prostate cancer than the general male population.

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Prostate cancer usually doesn’t cause any symptoms until it puts pressure on your urethra. When this happens, it can cause symptoms such as trouble urinating or not feeling like you’re completely emptying your bladder.

It’s a good idea to visit a doctor any time you have potential symptoms of prostate cancer. Catching prostate cancer in the early stages gives you the best chance of having a good outlook.