When to Seek Medical Care

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on May 18, 2022
2 min read

Who should undergo regular screening for prostate cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends that men should not be screened before they have received information from their health care provider during a discussion regarding the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits of prostate cancer screening. That discussion, which allows men to make an informed decision, should take place based on the following schedule:

  • Age 50 for men who have an average risk for prostate cancer and an expectation of living at least 10 years or more
  • Age 45 for men in the high-risk group, such as Blacks and those with a father, brother, or son that was diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 65
  • Age 40 for men who have more than one close relative (father, brother, or son) who had prostate cancer at an early age

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

  • Difficulty initiating or stopping a urine stream
  • Frequent urination
  • Pain on urination
  • Pain on ejaculation
  • Blood in your semen

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; this is a possible sign of advanced prostate cancer that has spread to the bones.

Prostate cancer can spread to nearby organs or travel through your bloodstream or lymphatic system to your bones or other organs. The most common site of bone metastasis in prostate cancer patients is the spine. Eventually, pressure from the vertebrae or the tumor at the spine will result in compression of the spinal cord. Spinal cord compression is a true emergency and may be the first sign of cancer.

Signs that your spinal cord is compressed 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 on one side) or in the 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.