Your doctor can check you for prostate cancer before you have any symptoms. Screening can help doctors find and treat cancer early. But studies so far have not shown that screening tests reduce the number of deaths from prostate cancer. You may want to talk with your doctor about the possible benefits and harms of being screened. The decision to be screened, like many other medical decisions, is a personal one. You should decide after learning the pros and cons of screening.
Your doctor can explain more about these tests:
- Digital rectal exam: The doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum and feels the prostate through the rectal wall. The prostate is checked for hard or lumpy areas.
- Blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA): A lab checks the level of PSA in a man's blood sample. A high PSA level is commonly caused by BPH or prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate). Prostate cancer may also cause a high PSA level.
The digital rectal exam and PSA test can detect a problem in the prostate. They cannot show whether the problem is cancer or a less serious condition. Your doctor will use the results of these tests to help decide whether to check further for signs of cancer. Information about other tests is in the "Diagnosis" section.
A man with prostate cancer may not have any symptoms. For men who have symptoms of prostate cancer, common symptoms include:
- Urinary problems
- Not being able to urinate
- Having a hard time starting or stopping the urine flow
- Needing to urinate often, especially at night
- Weak flow of urine
- Urine flow that starts and stops
- Pain or burning during urination
- Difficulty having an erection
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Frequent pain in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs
Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer. BPH, an infection, or another health problem may cause them. Any man with these symptoms should tell his doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. He may see his regular doctor or a urologist
. A urologist is a doctor whose specialty is diseases of the urinary system.