Only men have a prostate gland. The prostate is usually the size and shape of a walnut and grows bigger as you get older. It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra – the tube men urinate and ejaculate through.
Its main job is to help make semen – the fluid that carries sperm.
Prostate cancer can develop when cells in the prostate start to grow in an uncontrolled way. Prostate cancer often grows slowly to start with and may never cause any problems. But some men have prostate cancer that is more likely to spread. This needs treatment to stop it spreading outside the prostate.
Signs and symptoms
Prostate cancer that’s contained inside the prostate (called localised prostate cancer or early prostate cancer) doesn’t usually cause any symptoms. But some men might have some urinary problems. These can be mild and happen over many years and may be a sign of a benign prostate problem, rather than prostate cancer.
Changes to look out for include
needing to urinate more often than usual, including at night – for example if you often need to go again two hours
difficulty starting to urinate
straining or taking a long time to finish urinating
a weak flow when you urinate
a feeling that you’re not emptying your bladder fully
needing to rush to the toilet – sometimes leaking before you get there
dribbling urine after you finish.
Less common symptoms include
pain when urinating
pain when ejaculating
blood in your urine or semen*
problems getting or keeping an erection – this isn’t a common symptom of a prostate problem and is more often linked to other health conditions such as diabetes or heart problems.
*Blood in your urine or semen can be caused by other health problems. Talk to your doctor if you see any blood in your urine or semen.
For some men the first symptoms of prostate cancer might be new pain in the back, hips or pelvis. This can be caused by cancer that’s spread to the bones (advanced prostate cancer). These symptoms are often caused by other problems such as general aches or arthritis. But it’s still a good idea to get them checked out by your GP.
Most men with early prostate cancer don't have any symptoms. If you're worried about your risk or are experiencing any symptoms, visit your GP or speak to our Specialist Nurses.
Are you at risk?
In the UK, about 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives.
Colin SM, Metcalfe C, Donovan J, et al. Associations of lower urinary tract symptoms with prostate-specific antigen levels, and screen detected localized and advanced prostate cancer: a case-control study nested within the UK based population ProtecT (Prostate testing for cancer and Treatment) study. BJU Int 2008;102(10):1400-06.
Crawford E D. Understanding the Epidemiology, Natural History and Key Pathways Involved in Prostate Cancer. 2009 Urology; 73:5A
Speakman M, Kirby R, Doyle S, Loannau C. Burden of male lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) suggestive of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – focus on the UK. BJU Int. 2014; Mar 24. doi: 10.1111/bju.12745