← All resources

Beyond Bathroom Breaks: When it Could Be Prostate Cancer

Man opening bathroom door

Early signs of prostate cancer can include frequent trips to the bathroom. Here are seven things every man should know.

Prostate issues are a normal part of getting older for many men. An enlarged prostate can be uncomfortable and have pesky side effects like frequent bathroom trips. While talking about urination isn’t on any man’s list of things to do, they can feel more comfortable discussing these symptoms if they have an established relationship with their doctor. 

Dr. David Colon, an internal medicine physician at Tryon Medical Partners Pineville, recommends that men keep up their annual visits, talk about their medical history and be open to discussing anything that will help keep them healthy. If you’re experiencing frequent bathroom trips, review these seven things to know about prostate cancer from the doctors at Tryon Medical Partners.

1. Prostate Cancer is Common

Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer among men, according to the National Cancer Institute, and the second leading cause of death by cancer in men, after lung cancer.

2. Early Detection is Key

The American Urological Association, American Cancer Society and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force all provide recommendations for screening for prostate cancer starting between 50 and 55 years of age. But depending on family history and other risk factors, their doctor could suggest screening as early as age 40.

“Prostate cancer can be treatable and curable, but early detection is key to prevent finding it at late stages,” Dr. Colon says.

Tryon recommends that men talk with their doctor and get a personalized assessment of when they should get screened based on their family and personal medical history.

3. You Can Recognize the Signs and Symptoms

Because the prostate lies below the bladder and surrounds the urethra, most prostate cancer signs are tied to urinary symptoms, including:

  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Frequent and sudden urge to urinate, especially at night
  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Trouble emptying the bladder completely
  • Painful or burning sensations while urinating
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Erectile dysfunction or painful ejaculation

Although these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, like prostatitis, men should check with their doctor for a definitive diagnosis.

4. Risk Factors Matter

Age, race, family history and smoking are just a few of the risk factors of developing prostate cancer. As men age, the likelihood of prostate cancer increases. About six in 10 cases of prostate cancer are found in men older than 65. If there is a family history, meaning men with relatives — father, brother, son — diagnosed with prostate cancer, they are twice as likely to develop the disease. Research has shown that race plays a role and African American men have the highest risk for prostate cancer and are more than twice as likely to die from the disease.

5. Your Physician Can Recommend Screening Methods

Prostate cancer screenings measure how much PSA, or prostate specific antigen protein, is present. An individual’s risk factors help their primary care physician recommend screening frequency.

In general, I typically order a PSA test earlier than age 50 in patients with risk factors present,” Dr. Colon says. The first PSA test establishes a baseline that helps determine the normal PSA level. Then I follow my patients through annual visits and repeat PSA screenings to monitor the PSA level for any sudden increase.

6. There Are Treatment Options

Every man is different, so the treatment plan for prostate cancer is determined on a case-by-case basis. If treatment is needed, it could require a surgical procedure to remove the prostate, or include radiation, chemotherapy, hormone treatments, immunotherapies or a combination of these.

Because prostate cancer often grows slowly, some men who are older or have other serious health problems, might never need treatment and, at a certain age, will no longer need screenings. Instead, their doctor may recommend observation, often referred to as watchful waiting or active surveillance, which means their doctor monitors their prostate cancer over time to make sure it isn’t getting worse. 

7. Lifestyle Changes Can Help

The best lifestyle changes men can make to improve their prostate health are ones that improve overall health: quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and low in red meats and full-fat dairy products. 

“I tell all of my patients to eat a healthy diet and try to get exercise on a regular basis,” Dr. Colon says. “Try and choose organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible.”

It is important to listen to your body. If you’re experiencing any symptoms of prostate cancer, schedule an office visit today. Together with your trusted physician, you can develop a plan of action for prostate cancer screening and treatment options for early detection.