Prostate Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

Prostate Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

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Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2021

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

A symptom is something that only the person experiencing it can identify and describe, such as fatigue, nausea, or pain. A sign is something that other people can identify and measure, such as a fever, rash, or an elevated pulse. Together, signs and symptoms can help describe a medical problem. While most prostate cancer does not cause any symptoms at all, the symptoms and signs of prostate cancer may include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Weak or interrupted urine flow or the need to strain to empty the bladder
  • The urge to urinate frequently at night
  • Blood in the urine
  • New onset of erectile dysfunction
  • Pain or burning during urination, which is much less common
  • Discomfort or pain when sitting, caused by an enlarged prostate

Other noncancerous conditions of the prostate, such as BPH or an enlarged prostate, can cause similar symptoms. Or, the cause of a symptom or sign may be another medical condition that is also not related to cancer. Urinary symptoms also can be caused by an infection of the bladder or other conditions.

If cancer has spread outside of the prostate gland, symptoms and signs may include:

  • Pain in the back, hips, thighs, shoulders, or other bones
  • Swelling or fluid buildup in the legs or feet
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Change in bowel habits

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long

What is PSA?

PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen. PSA is a chemical made by the prostate, which is secreted into the semen. However, small amounts of PSA  find their way into the blood.

PSA is used as a prostate cancer test, but it’s normal to have a small amount of PSA in your blood.

What does a PSA test involve?

A PSA test is a blood test for prostate cancer. A small amount of blood will be taken from a vein in your arm and sent to a laboratory to measure your PSA levels. This can be done in your doctor’s surgery.

You may also be offered a digital rectal examination, and some urine tests.

What happens after your PSA tests depends on your results. If you have slightly elevated PSA, you will be called back to have the test repeated at a later date. If you have a high PSA, your doctor may discuss referring you to a specialist, and you will be offered further tests such as a biopsy and/or an MRI.

What is a normal PSA?

PSA levels vary by age. Normal PSA for a seventy year old will be higher than normal PSA for a forty year old.


Age Normal PSA
50−59 years Up to 3 ng/ml
60−69 years Up to 4 ng/ml
70−79 years Up to 5 ng/ml

Does an elevated PSA mean I have cancer?

About 3 out of 4 men with a raised PSA level will not have cancer.

A high PSA (also called raised PSA or elevated PSA) can be a sign of common prostate problems which are not related to cancer, such as prostatitis, or even a urine infection. Certain sports and medications may also temporarily affect PSA levels. You should avoid sexual activity for 48 hours before a PSA test. This is because ejaculation can temporarily increase your PSA levels.