For men, recognizing and getting tested for early symptoms of cancer can significantly improve their chances of long-term survival. This is especially critical for men as the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has stated that men are more likely to die from this disease than women are.
As a prostate cancer surgeon, I want men to not only be aware of early symptoms of prostate cancer, but of all cancers that afflict men. However, the only way to know for sure is to know early cancer warning signs, get tested and if diagnosed with cancer, get treated as soon as possible.
Below are possible warning signs of cancer in men. Any man with any of these symptoms should schedule a visit with their primary care physician right away:
Changes in urination
For men, changes in urinary habits can mean many different possibilities – benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a urinary tract infection or certain medications. But, it might also mean bladder cancer or prostate cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men while other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.
Symptoms of bladder cancer include:
- Blood in the urine
- Having to urinate more often than usual
- Pain or burning during urination
- The need to urinate right away, even when the bladder isn’t full
- Having trouble urinating or having a weak urine stream
- Having to get up to urinate many time during the night
There are often few if any symptoms of early prostate cancer. However, as it progresses, men may notice the following symptoms:
- A burning sensation when urinating
- A weak urine stream
- Erectile dysfunction
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Pain in the hips, back (spine), chest (ribs), or other areas
- Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet
Changes in bowel habits
It is not uncommon to have occasional changes in bowel habits. Most are not a cause of concern as dietary choices, lack of exercise, and a variety of other reasons can be the culprit.
However, if the change in bowel habits is long-term and more severe than usual, it could indicate certain types of cancer including colorectal, bladder, and prostate cancer.
Here are symptoms for men to be aware of possibly indicating cancer:
- Persistent or increased bleeding from the rectum, especially if it’s bright red
- Hemorrhoids causing itching, pain, rectal bleeding, and bloody stools
- Severe constipation or diarrhea or a narrowing of stools that lasts longer than several days
- Blood in the stools that might make stools look dark brown or black
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- A feeling you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one
- Unintended weight loss
Changes in weight, specifically weight loss
Unintended weight loss is often a red flag of something amiss and is often associated with cancer. Unintentional weight loss is defined as a person losing more than five percent of their body weight in less than one year without making any dietary or lifestyle changes.
But there can be many other possibilities for losing weight without trying including celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, peptic ulcer, certain medications, hyperthyroidism, Addison’s disease, dental problems, and dementia.
While unintentional weight loss can be caused by other factors besides cancer, it’s important for men not to ignore this. In fact, noticeable weight loss is often the first symptom of cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, stomach, and lung.
The one thing to know is that cancers known to cause weight loss early on will likely also cause other symptoms which include:
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty swallowing
- Frequent indigestion or heartburn
- Yellowing of the skin
- Persistent hoarseness
- Worsening or persistent pain
- Change in bowel habits
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
Changes in the testicles
Testicular cancer is a rare cancer found in men with most cases occurring in men ages fifteen to thirty-nine, with an average diagnosis of thirty-three years old. Only 9 percent of men with this cancer are older than fifty. In the early stages, testicular cancer may not always cause symptoms.
The first most noticeable symptom most men will find is a lump on a testicle. Here are other symptoms men should be aware of:
- Pain in one or both testicles
- Changes in the size or firmness of a testicle
- Pain or numbness of the scrotum
- Swelling of the scrotum
- A dull ache in the groin
- A sensation of heaviness in the scrotum or bloating in the lower abdomen
Changes in coughing frequency
A persistent cough that doesn’t go away or worsens over time can be a sign of several serious health conditions, including lung cancer. Men who have developed a persistent cough with no obvious reason should see their doctor right away.
Symptoms associated with a persistent cough that might indicate cancer include:
- Coughing up blood
- Excessive mucus production
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Important steps for men on staying vigilant of bodily changes
Cancer often hits people out of nowhere. Symptoms can be vague or often assumed to be caused by a less serious medical condition. Some cancers may have no symptoms until the later and unfortunately, less treatable stages when it has already spread throughout the body.
That does not mean men are helpless. Staying vigilant and being aware of bodily changes can be a wake-up call for men to take action by seeing their doctor. When caught early on, this generally improves a man’s chance of beating the cancer back.
Here are key symptoms that men should see a doctor for right away:
- Bloody stools or rectal bleeding
- Blood in urine or semen
- Unintended weight loss
- Severe or ongoing chest pain
- Bone pain
- Chronic headaches
- Blood in sputum
- Persistent cough
It is also imperative that men get regular cancer screenings to find tumors at the earliest stage possible.
Cancer screenings for men include:
- Prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing
- Digital rectal exam
- Colonoscopy for colorectal cancer
- Skin cancer check by a dermatologist
- Self-exams for testicular cancer
- Lung cancer screening if considered at high risk
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.