5 Signs That You May Need a Prostate Exam

Though you may visit your primary care physician, dentist, and other various doctors at least once a year to ensure that your health is up to par, there may be one exam you’re missing off of your yearly checklist. While you may eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercise more than occasionally, and feel like you’re in perfect health, you shouldn’t necessarily wait for any signs or symptoms of prostate cancer to go ahead and get a prostate exam — in fact, you should consider getting your prostate checked every four years once you hit your 50s.

While you may expect to have certain signs or general discomfort in your prostate area to signify any possible issues, this is not always the case; in fact, Prostate Cancer InfoLink suggests that it can be very difficult for the patient himself to detect prostate cancer in its early stages because there are often no signs or symptoms. By the time you start experiencing symptoms of prostate cancer, you may already be in a later stage, so it’s important to detect any issues as early as possible. While seeing a doctor for initial detection of any prostate-related health issues is the best way to detect the disease early, here are five more signs that it may be time for you to get a prostate exam.

1. You’re over the age of 50

Age is also a risk factor for prostate problems.

Getting older definitely has its downsides. | iStock.com

If you’re generally in good health and do not have a family history of prostate cancer, then waiting until 50 years of age to get your first prostate exam is acceptable. While prostate cancer is actually quite rare in men under the age of 50, according to Cancer Research UK, your risks do rise significantly as you get older.

About a third of all prostate cancer cases in the UK between the years 2009 and 2011 were diagnosed in men over the age of 75, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until you’re in your 70s to get checked — depending on your family history and ethnicity, you may be more likely to develop prostate cancer than your other guy friends. Age is the most significant risk factor in developing prostate cancer, so get checked once you hit 50 at the latest.

2. Family history of cancer

There's a reason professionals ask about your family's medical history.

Family history is a major risk factor. | Thinkstock.com

If you have a family history of cancer, your chances of developing prostate cancer are also higher, and you should be more proactive about getting an exam once you hit your 40s. And, if you have a father or a brother who has also been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you are up to two to three times more likely to develop the disease, so act accordingly. If you know of an immediate family member who was diagnosed, the age at which they were diagnosed can also be a factor — if their diagnosis occurred before they turned 60, your risk increases slightly here as well.

Studies have also shown that men are more likely to develop prostate cancer if their mothers have battled breast cancer. This is due to a faulty gene that may be inherited from mother to son, and men who have a mutation in this particular gene may be up to five times more likely to develop prostate cancer than men who do not. Also, this faulty gene may be the cause of developing prostate cancer in men who are under the age of 65 — all the more reason to get checked every few years starting in your 40s if you are at risk.

As far as other risk factors are concerned, ethnicity also comes into play. Black Caribbean and black African men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than white or Asian men.

3. Urination troubles

Frequent urination could be a sign of a much bigger problem.

Frequent urination could be a sign of trouble. | iStock.com/J2R

If you find that you’re getting up in the middle of the night or excusing yourself more often during the day to urinate, it may be time to get a prostate exam. When you get older, your prostate will naturally enlarge — according to WebMD, it’s the most common problem for men over 50 years of age. Having an enlarged prostate can impact your life greatly, especially if you find yourself having to skip out on meetings or work events early to visit the restroom. Symptoms of an enlarged prostate include a slow urinary stream, difficulty starting urination, an urgent feeling to urinate, and the feeling that you still have to urinate after you’re finished. A prostate exam can let you know if you’re developing an enlarged prostate, and you can move forward with your doctor for treatment plans and reducing the severity of your symptoms.

If you’re feeling a frequent need to urinate at night or you’re having trouble starting or stopping your urination and you’ve ruled out benign prostate enlargement as the cause, you may be experiencing symptoms of a blockage caused by prostate cancer. If you see blood in your urine, then the cause is usually more serious than non-cancerous prostate enlargement, and it’s important to schedule an exam right away.

4. Bone pain and pelvic discomfort

See a doctor if you feel any pain or discomfort.

Make an appointment with your doctor if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort. | iStock.com

If you’re experiencing pain around the pelvis and prostate gland, then that is reason enough to schedule an exam, as this can be a late symptom of prostate cancer. Healthline explains that once prostate cancer begins to spread, pain is most likely to occur near the hips, lower back, pelvis, and upper thighs. It’s also common for more than one area to ache at the same time, so if you’re experiencing pain in more than one area, go in for that exam.

Pain in the pelvis and bones may be the first symptoms that are experienced when prostate cancer is growing, so if you’re experiencing any pain in these areas, particularly if you’re over the age of 50, then it’s important to get it checked out by a doctor. Bone pain can grow slowly over time, so what may seem like a small ache has the potential to grow in intensity if not caught and treated immediately.

5. High fat diet and sedentary lifestyle

Poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are both risk factors for cancer.

A diet high in certain fats can increase your cancer risk. | iStock.com/AnnaPustynnikova

Eating your greens and cutting down on high-fat foods has always been a mantra you’ve heard, and if you’re approaching your 50s and you’re a big fan of steak and potatoes, you may want to look into getting that prostate exam. Though the role that diet plays in the development of prostate cancer is not completely understood, Cancer.org explains that men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products are at a higher risk of developing the disease.

It is also suggested that men who consume a lot of calcium are at a higher risk as well — whether it’s from food or supplements, you should watch your calcium intake if you already have a family history of prostate cancer.

Living a sedentary lifestyle may also be cause for concern when it comes to your prostate health. Exercise is naturally one of the best antioxidants and it can help reduce inflammation while circulating oxygen better through the body. This anti-inflammatory effect can help you ward away cancer and other diseases related to the prostate, but if you find that you’re not getting enough exercise, you’ll want to look into getting an exam.

Studies have also found an interesting correlation between weight and prostate cancer. It appears that obese men have a lower risk of getting a less dangerous form of prostate cancer, but they have a higher chance of getting a more serious form of the disease as well. While the reasons are not clear, men who are obese are more likely to develop a more advanced form of prostate cancer. All in all, if you are of a heavier weight, it may be even more vital for you to get an exam.