In its early stages, prostate cancer is usually asymptomatic, meaning a person with the disease experiences no symptoms. However, as it progresses, it can cause pain during urination and in other parts of the body.
In someone with prostate cancer, the cancerous cells grow uncontrollably. Over time, the disease can metastasize — or spread — to other body parts.
People with metastatic prostate cancer commonly experience back pain when it spreads to their bones. This is particularly true if the disease affects the vertebral column, which comprises the bones that protect the spine. Some individuals may also experience nerve pain.
Read on to learn more about why prostate cancer causes pain and the types of pain in advanced prostate cancer.
If prostate cancer becomes advanced, it
People with advanced prostate cancer commonly experience pain when cancer spreads to their bones, especially the vertebral column.
- pain or burning during urination
- pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that does not go away
- painful ejaculation
- trouble starting the flow of urine
- a weak or interrupted flow of urine
- frequent urination, especially at night
- difficulty emptying the bladder completely
- blood in the urine or semen
If a person experiences any symptoms of prostate cancer, they need to contact a doctor immediately.
Pain relating to advanced stage prostate cancer can have associations with the bone, nerves, or spinal cord. Different people experience prostate cancer differently.
Prostate cancer that spreads to the bones can damage or fracture them, causing pain.
It most commonly affects the vertebrae of the spine and can impact a person’s ability to walk or move around. If the metastasis spreads beyond the vertebra and affects the spinal cord nerves, it can cause leg paralysis or a loss of bladder control, bowel control, or both.
Some people claim that bone pain feels similar to a toothache. Others may describe it as a dull ache or stabbing sensation.
The pain might be constant, or it might come and go. It can also vary from person to person regarding its severity.
If a cancerous tumor presses on a nerve, a person may experience nerve pain, also known as neuropathic pain. It may come and go and cause a shooting, stabbing, burning, or tingling sensation.
This may also cause referred pain, which originates in one part of the body, but a person feels it in a different part of the body. For instance, if a tumor presses on a certain nerve in the spine, the individual might feel pain in their leg.
When prostate cancer spreads, it often metastasizes to the lymph nodes. If the metastasis blocks the drainage of the lymph vessels, it can cause lymphedema, although this is uncommon.
If a person experiences lymphedema due to prostate cancer, it is most likely to affect their legs but can also affect the penis or scrotum. Lymphedema can cause an aching, tight, or heavy feeling in the affected area.
Although cancer itself can lead to lymphedema, cancer treatments, such as radiotherapy, can also be the cause. Some people do not develop lymphoedema until months or years after treatment.
Metastatic spinal cord compression
Metastatic spinal cord compression is an uncommon but serious pain relating to prostate cancer. It occurs when a tumor grows in or near the spine, putting pressure on the spinal cord and causing discomfort.
The pain people with prostate cancer experience is not always due to cancer. Treatment for prostate cancer, such as radiotherapy, can also cause temporary pain.
Additionally, problems unrelated to a person’s prostate cancer, such as an infection, can cause pain.
Some people may attribute their pain to being older without discussing it with a healthcare professional. Whatever the cause of pain, it is always worth ruling out anything serious by consulting a doctor.
Besides following a doctor’s orders regarding medication and treatment plans, people with prostate cancer can take steps to support themselves.
For instance, they can do this by:
- helping themselves feel better by eating nutritious meals and doing gentle exercise
- getting enough quality sleep and seeking medical help for any problems with sleeping
- moving regularly to maintain comfort and prevent stiffness
- using hot or cold packs to relieve pain
- distracting themselves from the pain with a relaxing activity, such as listening to music, reading, or chatting with a friend
- using relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, listening to relaxation recordings, or taking a bath
A person needs to speak with a doctor as soon as possible if they experience persistent pain. The earlier someone gets the help and treatment they need, the sooner they may get their pain under control.
A person may experience pain due to prostate cancer itself, especially if it becomes advanced or due to certain treatments, such as radiotherapy. The pain can present in different ways, such as bone pain, nerve pain, lymphedema, or metastatic spinal cord compression.
Any individual experiencing ongoing pain should speak with a doctor about it as soon as possible.