The symptoms of prostate cancer and kidney stones overlap quite a bit. But are there any symptoms that are not shared by these two conditions?
“Many symptoms of these two conditions can overlap,” says Matthew Allaway, DO, a urologist who specializes in detecting prostate cancer and the developer of a prostate biopsy technique that improves cancer detection.
“A classic symptom of kidney stones is flank pain, or pain in the lower back, between the ribs and hips on either side of the body,” continues Dr. Allaway.
The pain is caused when the stone gets lodged in a ureter. A ureter is a tube that connects each kidney to the bladder. The stone, though lodged, may still move around.
“Prostate cancer has a propensity to spread into the bones in more advanced cases,” says Dr. Allaway.
“Often, metastases are seen in the spinal column. As cancer grows in the spine, the surrounding bone weakens and is at risk of developing compression fractures, which are similar in location and degree of pain compared to kidney stones.”
However, in the case of kidney stones, the pain is more likely to have a come-and-go, or fluctuating nature, since the stone can move around.
Metastases are fixed in place as they grow, but it’s still possible for bone pain from prostate cancer to come and go.
With both conditions, pain can get worse with movement.
“Advanced cases of prostate cancer can also present with obstructive urinary complaints, which is a symptom also seen in kidney stone cases where the stone is moving from the ureter to the bladder.
“These complaints include a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying, frequent urination and pressure in the bladder.”
Other Symptoms that Both Prostate Cancer and a Kidney Stone Can Cause
- Prevention of urine flow
- Pain or burning when urinating
- Urinating in small amounts
- Blood in the urine, which may make it appear pink, red or brown. However, though prostate cancer can cause this, it’s actually a rare symptom of this cancer.
- Nausea, vomiting
Signs of a Kidney Stone that Wouldn’t Occur with Prostate Cancer
- Cloudy urine
- Foul smelling urine
Prostate Cancer Symptoms that Wouldn’t be Caused by a Kidney Stone
- Weight loss without explanation
- Appetite loss
- Fatigue for no known reason
Note: Not all cases of kidney stones cause pain, and not all men who have advanced prostate cancer have pain, either.
Thus, it would not be wise to assume you can’t possibly have prostate cancer because you don’t feel any pain.
“Due to the overlap of symptoms in these two very different conditions, it is important for people experiencing any of these symptoms to visit their healthcare provider who can help provide an accurate diagnosis,” says Dr. Allaway.
Even if you keep telling yourself that your symptoms “are probably” a kidney stone, you still need to seek immediate medical attention, because this condition can become serious enough to require surgery.
The bottom line is that it’s NOT NORMAL to have problems involving urination or new-onset pain in the pelvis, hips, flanks and back without any explanation.
Even intense muscle soreness in those areas from heavy physical labor will rapidly diminish in the ensuing days.
Pain that persists, and especially gets worse, may not always mean cancer, but it certainly means that a trip to a doctor should not be delayed.
Dr. Allaway is the founder and CEO of Perineologic, a medical device company focused on the development and delivery of technology to improve the safety, precision and efficiency of healthcare options in the field of urology.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.