It is Movember! (The month previously known as November), and it’s a time where we focus on men’s health, specifically, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.
Let’s talk Prostate today. Let’s talk about that walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis, just in front of the rectum. Such an awkward spot, but we really need to talk about it…
Did you know?
Prostate cancer is the most prevalent cancer in South African men and predominantly affects older men, with the average age of diagnosis being 68 years of age. Furthermore, more than 70% of men over the age of 80 have some type of cancer cells in their prostate. With the exponential ageing of the population and the increase in life expectancy, the proportion of men that will come face to face with this disease is increasing.
Scared yet? Well, shouldn’t you be? If you know your prostate health and act early, the stats are on your side.
Despite the worrying statistics mentioned above, the overall prognosis for men diagnosed with prostate cancer is positive, especially when caught early. If prostate cancer, and only if, is caught early, that is before it spreads, the five-year survival rates for the disease are close to 100 per cent.
Early detection is key
The difference between early and late detection can be the difference between life and death.
Prostate Cancer Prevention
As we’ve seen with the high diagnosis rates in older men, prostate cancer is very common especially as we are all living longer. BUT, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take all the steps we can to try and prevent the cancer cells from triggering and metastasising. Here are some steps you can take that may help push back a diagnosis:
- Exercise: – Exercising can be beneficial in terms of maintaining a healthy BMI (what your weight should be according to your height). An increase in exercise, paired with a healthier diet, can help you drop weight quickly and get to proper BMI level.
- Healthy Diet: Eating certain foods like vegetables, fruits, and fish (which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good fats) is recommended because it takes away from eating fatty foods, like pork, fried food, and cheese, which play a role in weight gain. People with higher body mass indexes (above 30) have been shown to have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Reduce stress: Stress has been shown to aid the progression of active cancer cells in your prostate. It also negatively affects your immune system, which is constantly fighting cancer cells when they’re present.
These preventative steps are also recommended for other types of cancers and diseases. While they may not explicitly reduce your risk of getting prostate cancer, following these steps won’t increase your chances of developing the disease.
How is your prostate?
Ah, the dreaded, stigmatised prostate exam: a necessity for every man over 50. A symptom of prostate cancer is an enlarged prostate, so the main way Doctors test for it is by feeling the prostate.
Luckily this test is not the be-all and end-all of prostate tests. There are plenty of tests doctors run to confirm a diagnosis. These tests include:
- Blood test (PSA Test): One of the other primary tests to see if you have prostate cancer is called a prostate-specific antigen test, or a PSA test. For this, doctors take a blood sample from your arm and test it for a specific substance (antigen) that is produced by your prostate. Anything below 4.0 is still considered in the healthy range, though the closer the levels are to 4.0, the closer it should be watched. While levels over 4.0 don’t strictly indicate cancer, it’s a strong indicator of prostate growth and swelling, which is a leading sign of cancer.
- Urine analysis
- Sampling prostate tissue (biopsy)
If you have any questions or concerns regarding a prostate cancer diagnosis—or think you may have this disease—contact your doctor immediately.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
In its earliest stages, none of these symptoms may be present, which is why it’s important to get ahead of the disease with regular testing. A lot of the symptoms of the disease have to do with discomfort while urinating while ejaculating. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, these can include:
- Blood in your urine
- Pain while ejaculating
- Frequently having to urinate— especially at night— and not being able to hold it back
- Pain while urinating
- Sporadic flow of urination
- Loss of control of your bladder and bowels
- Pain in your hips, back, spine, and other parts of your body close to your prostate, indicating that the cancer may have spread
- Pressure in your rectum
Thank you for the opportunity to talk Prostate. If you are older than 50 years of age, pop to your GP and continue this conversation with them. Check your prostate. The sooner the better…