DO NOT LET FEAR AND ANXIETY KEEP YOU FROM HAVING THE TESTS YOU NEED TO DETECT—OR HELP RULE OUT—PROSTATE CANCER. BY FRANCOIS LUBBE Over the past few weeks on my blogs, I’ve highlighted the common cancer symptoms many people ignore or don’t act on until their cancer is well-advanced. All too often we think: ‘It will never happen to me’ or we bury our heads in the sand out of fear, even when we spot abnormalities in our bodies… Men, in particular can be guilty of this, as they are often embarrassed about going to their doctor and discussing what they see as taboo subjects, like erection problems or problem with urination. However, similar to women, men over 50 also need to go for annual check-ups and tests such as colonoscopies and prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing. Don’t just rely on tests alone, because it’s equally as important to listen to your body and be aware of anything that’s different or a little bit odd. Early-stage prostate cancer often doesn’t have many symptoms, so many men don’t find out they have it until the cancer has spread, making it more difficult to treat. This is unfortunate, because prostate cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in men, after skin cancer. Sometimes your partner will notice changes you might be unaware of or don’t want to admit. If this happens, it’s best to act sooner rather than later. You don’t want to join the ranks of cancer patients who realized much too late, that symptoms they’d noticed at an early stage but did not act on sounded an alarm, when the cancer was much easier to treat. The six most common early cancer symptoms men often overlook include: Erection Problems As prostate cancer progresses, a common sign is difficulty getting or sustaining an erection. Let’s face it, this can be a difficult subject to talk about, but it’s important to have it checked out as soon as possible because prostate cancer kills over 4,000 men a year, in the Canada alone. A prostate tumor can prevent the blood flow increase to the penis that allows an erection to happen, or it can prevent the erection from sustaining to ejaculation. Enlargement of the prostate and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) can also cause this, so don’t panic — but do talk to your doctor. However, erection problems could be a sign of sexual dysfunction with another cause, of course, but it’s still a good reason to have a prostate examination. Pain and aches or heaviness in the groin, hips, thighs, or abdomen Another sign of prostate cancer is frequent pain in the hips, upper thighs, or the lower back. Prostate cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes often causes discomfort in the pelvis or swelling in the legs. A heavy, aching feeling low in the belly or abdomen, or in the scrotum or testicles, can indicate the early onset of testicular cancer. This aching feeling is often described as a downward pulling or as a generalized ache throughout the groin area. Testicular swelling or lumps The lumps that indicate testicular cancer are nearly always painless. It’s also common for a testicle to be enlarged or swollen, without showing a specific lump that you can see or feel. Some men report feeling discomfort from the enlargement but not an outright pain Constipation and other intestinal issues. The prostate gland is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum, so a tumor in this location can interfere with digestive functions. However, it’s sort of a chicken-and-egg situation; chronic constipation can contribute to an enlarged prostate by putting pressure on the gland, as well as vice versa. Chronic constipation and intestinal problems can also be an early indicator of colon cancer. If you’re suffering from constipation, gas, or other intestinal symptoms that don’t go away when you modify your diet talk to your doctor Difficulty urinating or changes in urine flow The most common early sign of prostate cancer is a feeling of not being able to start urinating once you’re set to go. Many men also report having a hard time stopping the flow of urine, a flow that starts and stops, or a stream that’s weaker than normal. Any of these symptoms can have less serious causes, such as prostate enlargement, but it’s still reason enough to see your doctor for an examination. Having to urinate in the middle of the night is one of the sly symptoms that men diagnosed with prostate cancer say they now look back on and remember. If you find yourself waking more than once a night urgently needing to go, a trip to the doctor in order Pain or burning during urination This symptom can indicate prostate cancer. However, don’t worry as it can also indicate a urinary tract infection. It’s often combined with the feeling that you need to go more often, particularly at night. The burning sensation can also indicate inflammation or infection in the prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia — a condition whereby the prostate grows bigger and blocks the flow of urine.