Prostate Cancer

Mens Health Advice

Symptoms and diagnosis of prostate cancer


Cancers that are found within the prostate gland only are known as early prostate cancer. Men with early prostate cancer are unlikely to have any symptoms at all. Prostate cancers usually only cause symptoms when they are large enough to disturb your bladder or press on the tube that drains urine. For that reason, the symptoms of prostate cancer, when they appear, are like the symptoms of an enlarged prostate .

The symptoms of prostate cancer include:

  • Passing urine more often, especially at night
  • Pain or difficulty when passing urine
  • Trouble starting or stopping the flow of urine
  • The feeling of not having emptied your bladder
  • Frequent pain in your lower back, hips or upper thighs
  • Trouble having or keeping an erection
  • Blood in your urine or sperm (very rare)

If you have any of the above symptoms, get them checked out by your doctor. But remember that most enlarged prostate glands are not cancer and can be easily treated.


First, visit your family doctor (GP) if you are worried about any symptoms. Your GP can examine you and do some blood tests. If your GP is still concerned about you, he or she can refer you to a hospital specialist called a urologist for more tests.

Tests for prostate cancer

The PSA test

This is a blood test to measure the PSA level in your blood. A small sample of blood is taken from your arm using a needle and syringe. PSA is a protein made by the prostate gland that can be found into your bloodstream. Sometimes a raised PSA level can be a sign of prostate cancer. But more often it is caused by something less serious like an inflamed prostate or an enlarged prostate that comes with ageing.

A single PSA test cannot show you if a prostate cancer is present or if it is slow or fast growing. At present, a normal result is anything up to 4ng/mL. The rate at which the PSA doubles is important too, so PSA levels should be compared regularly. For example, if your PSA was 2 last year and 4 this year, it may need to be checked out.

Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)

This involves your doctor putting a gloved finger into your back passage to feel your prostate. This test can find cancers that are in nearby tissues, but overall it can find less than half of prostate cancers. The test may be a little uncomfortable but is quick.

For more information on the symptoms and diagnosis of prostate cancer, please see our booklet Understanding the PSA test.

National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP)

In February 2010 the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) produced National Prostate Cancer Referral Guidelines for General Practitioners. These provide advice for GP´S about the referral process for men with suspected prostate cancer, including advice on where Rapid Access Prostate Cancer Centres are located and direct contact information for health care staff.

The NCCP is in the process of establishing rapid access clinics for the assessment of patients with suspected prostate cancer. These clinics will be located in each of the Cancer Centres. The rapid access clinics are currently open and operating in:

  • Hospital
  • Beaumont Hospital Dublin 9
  • St. James Hospital Dublin
  • St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin 4
  • Mater University Hospital Dublin 7
  • Cork University Hospital
  • Galway University Hospital
  • Midwestern Regional Hospital Limerick
  • Waterford Regional Hospital
  • Contact Number
  • Tel. (01) 8093485
  • Tel. (01) 4162850
  • Tel. (01) 2213055
  • Tel. (01) 8032644
  • Tel. (021) 4922113
  • Tel. (091) 542053
  • Tel. (061) 585637
  • Tel. (051) 84884