The Signs of Prostate Cancer

Most men today are diagnosed before they begin to show any signs of prostate cancer.

As a point of clarification, signs of prostate cancer are those things that others, such as your healthcare provider, can see or measure that might point to the disease. Symptoms, on the other hand, are those things only you can feel (such as pain, the need to use the bathroom, etc.) and must report to others.

Doctor listening to man’s breathing in doctor’s office
Martin Barraud / Getty Images

Possible Signs of Prostate Cancer

  • An Irregular Contour to the Prostate: The prostate can be examined during a digital rectal exam and, if found to be irregular or "bumpy," is considered to be abnormal.
  • An Elevated PSA Level: While there are many causes of an elevated PSA level that are not cancer, it remains one of the possible causes until ruled out. Most men today are first diagnosed with prostate cancer after being found to have an elevated PSA.
  • Enlarged Bladder and Distended With Urine: This can sometimes be felt on a physical exam of the abdomen but can be easily seen on an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI of the abdomen. As the prostate enlarges due to cancer, BPH, or any other reason, it restricts the flow of urine out of the bladder. Subsequently, it may fill with urine and enlarge.
  • X-Ray, CT Scan, MRI, Bone Scan or Other Imaging Studies: Prostate cancer has a tendency to spread to the bones. While many other conditions are more likely to be the cause of a new bone lesion, prostate cancer is also a possibility.
  • Enlarged Lymph Nodes In the Pelvis: Prostate cancer, when it spreads, often goes to bones or/and the lymph nodes in the pelvis, causing them to enlarge. In prostate cancer, bones and regional lymph nodes are the most common sites of metastasis.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Abraham J, Gulley JL, Allegra CJ. Bethesda Handbook of Clinical Oncology. 2005.
  • Govindan R, Arquette MA. Washington Manual of Oncology. 2002.

By Matthew Schmitz, MD
Matthew Schmitz, MD, is a professional radiologist who has worked extensively with prostate cancer patients and their families.