Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop in the prostate, forming a malignant tumour (cancerous growth). These abnormal cells can continue to multiply and may spread outside the prostate into nearby or distant parts of the body.
‘When they hear the word ‘cancer’, people feel they’re going to die straight away.’
Prostate cancer is generally a slow-growing disease, and the majority of men with prostate cancer can live for long time without painful symptoms or the cancer spreading.
Prostate cancer is not infectious or contagious. You cannot ‘catch’ prostate cancer.
Symptoms of prostate cancer
In the early stage of prostate cancer, there are usually no symptoms.
Later stage prostate cancer can cause symptoms that include:
- Feeling the frequent or sudden need to urinate
- Finding it difficult to urinate (for example, trouble starting, not being able to urinate when the feeling is there, poor urine flow)
- Discomfort when urinating
- Finding blood in urine
- Pain in various bones if the cancer has spread to them
These symptoms are not always caused by prostate cancer. They can be caused by other prostate related diseases that are not cancerous, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (benign enlargement of the prostate) or prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate).
It is important that you speak with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
BPH, sometimes called benign prostatic enlargement, is a condition of the prostate gland. It is not cancer and it is common in older men. BPH is when the prostate gland becomes larger than normal.
When the prostate gland becomes enlarged, it can ‘squeeze’ the urethra and can make it narrower. When this happens, it can cause symptoms such as difficulty urinating, a frequent need to urinate during the day, feeling an urgent need to pass urine, and a feeling that the bladder has not emptied completely. Having these symptoms does not mean you are more likely to develop or have prostate cancer.
BPH can be a progressive condition and symptoms can get worse over time if not treated.
Prostatitis is the inflammation of the prostate, sometimes caused by an infection. It is a condition that can affect both younger and older men. Prostatitis is not cancer or a sexually transmissible infection. It is not a sign of prostate cancer.
Prostatitis can cause symptoms such as pain or discomfort in the testicles, in the area between the testicles and anus (perineum), difficulty urinating, frequent and painful urination, painful ejaculation, and lower back pain.
There are different types of prostatitis, which can be caused by a bacterial infection or non-infectious inflammation. The best treatment depends on the type of prostatitis.
14% of Australian men over 40 years old have reported that they have been diagnosed with a prostate disease.
If you’re concerned about BPH and prostatitis, please contact your doctor or one of the organisations listed in the ‘Where can I get more information?’ section for more information.