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When to Seek Medical Care

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Who should undergo regular screening for prostate cancer?

  • Men aged 50 years and older should undergo a yearly digital rectal examination and blood testing for prostatic specific antigen (PSA).
  • Men in the high-risk group, such as those with a family history of prostate cancer or of African American ethnicity, should begin screening as early as age 40 years.

See your health care provider if you have any of the following symptoms:

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Prostate Cancer: The Basics

The prostate is a muscular, walnut-sized gland that surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that transports urine and sperm out of the body. A gland is a group of cells that secretes chemicals that act on or control the activity of other cells or organs. The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. Its main job is to make seminal fluid, the milky substance that transports sperm. Sperm is produced in the testicles, which also make the male hormone testosterone. Testosterone stimulates the...

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  • Difficulty initiating or stopping a urine stream
  • Frequent urination
  • Pain on urination
  • Pain on ejaculation

Go to the nearest hospital emergency department right away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Urinary tract infection - Burning pain on urination, urgency, frequent urination, especially with fever
  • Bladder obstruction - Not urinating or urinating very little despite drinking enough fluid; producing little urine despite straining; pain due to a full bladder
  • Acute kidney failure - Not urinating or urinating little, with little discomfort, despite drinking enough fluid
  • Deep bone pain, especially in the back, hips, or thighs, or bone fracture - Possible sign of advanced prostate cancer that has spread to the bones

Spinal cord compression is a true emergency and may be the first sign of cancer. It occurs when the cancer has spread to vertebrae of the spine and tailbone region. The weakened vertebrae can collapse on the spinal cord, causing symptoms and problems with function.

Symptoms depend on the level at which the spine is compressed. Typical symptoms that might signal acute spinal cord compression include:

  • Weakness in the legs and difficulty walking
  • Increased difficulty urinating or moving your bowels
  • Difficulty controlling your bladder or bowels
  • Decreased sensation, numbness, or tingling in the groin or legs.

These symptoms are often preceded by pain in the hip (usually one sided) or back lasting a few days or weeks. Such symptoms require immediate evaluation in the nearest hospital emergency department. Failure to be treated immediately can result in permanent spinal cord damage.

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on May 02, 2014
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