Prostate Cancer & Back Pain

Author: Yamini Ranchod, PhD, MS

Chronic back pain can sometimes be a symptom of advanced prostate cancer. However, there are many other possible causes of back pain.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that sits below the bladder and wraps around the urethra. This gland is part of the male reproductive system and is involved in the production of semen.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS)prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer among American males, affecting 1 in 9 over the course of their lifetimes.

The outlook for people with prostate cancer is encouraging, particularly when doctors diagnose it early. For all stages of prostate cancer, the ACS report 5- and 10-year relative survival rates of 99 percent and 98 percent, respectively.

However, prostate cancer is still a leading cause of cancer death, so regular screenings and prompt attention to possible symptoms are very important.

In this article, we look at the link between back pain and prostate cancer. We also describe other causes of back pain and explore prostate cancer in detail, including its symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, testing, and treatment.

Can back pain be a symptom of prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer cells may spread to a person’s bones.

There can be a connection between back pain and prostate cancer, but back pain alone is not necessarily a sign of the disease.

In advanced prostate cancer, cancer cells spread beyond the prostate to other parts of the body. These cells usually spread to the bones first, and doctors refer to this as bone metastasis.

If prostate cancer spreads to the bones, it most often reaches the spine, ribs, and hips. This occurs in stage 4 prostate cancer, and it can cause pain. According to ZERO, an advocacy group, bone metastases will affect more than 60 percent of men with advanced prostate cancer.

Individuals with chronic back pain that has no obvious cause should see a physician for an evaluation.

Other causes of back pain

Back pain, particularly in the short term, is a very common medical complaint. Possible causes can include:

  • strains, sprains, and overexertion
  • injuries
  • damaged, ruptured, or deteriorating discs in the spine
  • spinal stenosis
  • pressure on the spinal nerves
  • sciatica
  • abnormalities of the spine, such as scoliosis
  • arthritis and other inflammatory diseases
  • kidney stones
  • infections
  • abdominal aortic aneurysms

Other symptoms of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer usually has no early warning signs. Because of this, many doctors and health authorities recommend screening men at risk.

When prostate cancer does cause symptoms, they may include:

  • a frequent, urgent need to urinate
  • nocturia, or needing to urinate frequently during the night
  • reduced urine flow
  • trouble starting or stopping the flow of urine
  • pain with urination or ejaculation
  • blood in the urine or semen

However, these can also be symptoms of other conditions, including:

  • benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is enlargement of the prostate and very common in older men
  • prostatitis, which is inflammation of the prostate

Neither of these conditions involves cancer, but it is still important to see a doctor for evaluation and treatment.

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