Prostate cancer: Causes, symptoms and why it is hard to detect early

marcom@healthxchange.com.sg (healthxchange.sg)
·2-min read

Prostate cancer is the third most common cancer affecting Singapore men. As our population ages, it is also fast becoming one of the most common cancers.

Causes of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is mainly found in older men above the age of 50.

"In general, the 3 major risk factors for prostate cancer include older age, race (African-American) and family history," shares Dr Raj Vikesh Tiwari, Associate Consultant from the Urology Service at Sengkang General Hospital (SKH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Read more: Our specialist answers FAQs about prostate cancer


"Familial or hereditary prostate cancer represents 10% of all prostate cancers, where we see clustering of prostate cancer in certain families. By definition, to have familial prostate cancer there must be 3 generations affected, with 3 first degree relatives (direct relations) or 3 relatives under the age of 55 years," he adds.

In fact, if you have

  • 1 relative that is affected, you have 2 to 3 times risk over the average person

  • 2 relatives that are affected, you have a 5 times risk

  • 3 relatives that are affected, you have an 11 times risk

In addition, familial breast cancer also confers a greater risk of prostate cancer in those families as they share the same gene (BRCA 1 gene).

Read more: Male infertility - Is frequent masturbation a cause?

Symptoms of prostate cancer

Detection of early stage prostate cancer is difficult as it is usually asymptomatic. Symptoms usually show up at later stages of the disease as the tumour grows and narrows the urethra (urine passage) and spreads to other organs.

However, the following symptoms are non-specific and may also be caused by benign (non-cancerous) conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) and prostatitis (prostate inflammation).

Symptoms of prostate cancer include:

  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine

  • Frequent urination (especially at night)

  • Difficulty urinating

  • Pain or burning during urination

  • Blood in the urine or semen

  • Nagging pain in the back, hips, or pelvis

  • Painful ejaculation

Read more: How is prostate cancer diagnosed and treated


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