Often prostate cancer is slow growing and symptoms may not develop for many years. Symptoms only happen if the cancer is large enough to press on the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body).
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.
Symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- difficulty passing urine such as a weak flow or having to strain to start urination
- needing to urinate more frequently than usually, especially at night-time
- feeling like you have not completely emptied your bladder after urinating
- an urgent need to urinate
- blood in urine or semen
- sometimes pain when urinating or ejaculating.
These symptoms may also be a sign of benign prostatic hyperplasia which is the most common cause of prostate enlargement and this is non-cancerous.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is important to always get checked by your GP.
If you have symptoms that you are worried may be cancer, it is important to still seek advice from your GP surgery. Your symptoms do not mean you have cancer and could be caused by a number of common conditions but it is always best to get checked.
Your GP will probably examine your prostate gland using a gloved finger into your back passage. You may also be asked to provide a urine sample. Certain changes in your prostate gland might make your GP think you need further investigation but this does not necessarily mean you have cancer. You may also have a Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test at your GP surgery.
Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test
A PSA test detects levels of Prostate specific antigen, a protein only made by prostate cells. Although most PSA is carried out of the body in semen, a very small amount escapes into the blood stream and the amount depends on the size and health of your prostate. The test measures your levels of prostate specific antigen in the blood. There are pros and cons to having this test where there are no symptoms as it does not always accurately confirm or disprove the presence of cancer in the prostate. However, where a patient has symptoms that may be suggestive of prostate cancer it is important to test for PSA levels.
If prostate cancer is suspected, the next step of the pathway is a referral to the hospital for further testing within two weeks. This is called a fast track referral.
During the COVID-19 pandemic fast track referrals are still essential but they may be managed differently.
For more information about fast track referrals during the COVID-19 pandemic download a fast track referrals leaflet: