Prostate cancer continues to be a disease that is diagnosed late. This means that many men die from it because it is already in an advanced stage when they see a doctor. Understanding the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer can help you be proactive in your health. Treatments can improve or even cure most cases of prostate cancer, but the key to getting treatments is finding it early. November is Prostate Awareness Month and throughout this article, you will learn how to prevent prostate cancer, your risk factors, and identify the symptoms.
An Introduction to Prostate Cancer
In Bermuda, prostate cancer is the leading form of cancer diagnosed in men and the 5th leading cause of death (2019 data) next to lung cancer. This type of cancer often progresses slowly and remains confined to the prostate gland, which is unlikely to cause any serious harm. Other cases are more aggressive and can spread rapidly.
The prostate is a small walnut-like shaped gland located in the groin, between the base of the penis and the rectum. It surrounds the urethra, a tube-like channel in the penis that carries urine and sperm. The prostate produces seminal fluid, which acts as a medium for transporting, protecting, and storing sperm.
In common with all cancers, it is difficult to pinpoint the precise cause of prostate cancer. Various factors, such as genetics, diet, and environmental factors like exposure to toxins and radiation, can influence cancer risk.
Mutations in your DNA cause the formation of malignant cells. This mutation causes the cancer cells in your prostate to grow out of control. Malignant or abnormal cells continue to divide and grow until a tumor develops. Those with aggressive prostate cancers may develop metastases or spread cancer cells to other parts of the body.
Prostate cancer manifests differently in different people. In fact, some men exhibit no symptoms at all. In general, symptoms generally manifest themselves in the later stages of the condition. See your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms.
- Chronic lower back, hip, or thigh pain
- Painful or burning urination
- Having blood in your urine or sperm
- Sudden loss of weight or appetite
- Bowel problems
- Nausea and vomiting
- Inflammation of the limbs
- Painful ejaculation
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- You may feel pressure or pain in your rectum
- The frequent need to urinate, particularly at night
Please keep in mind that other conditions besides prostate cancer may cause these symptoms. This includes benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostatitis, bladder infection, etc.
Risks Factors for Prostate Cancer
Researchers do not know precisely what causes prostate cancer, but the following factors may increase one’s risk.
- Age: The risk of developing the disease is higher in men over the age of 50. As you age, the chance of getting prostate cancer increases.
- Genes: The condition is most prevalent in African American men. As a group, they have an increased risk of getting aggressive cancers which spread aggressively and eventually lead to death. There is no exact reason why African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer, but there may be a link to dietary, environmental, or socioeconomic factors.
- Race: The risk of developing the disease is higher in men over the age of 50. As you age, the chance of getting prostate cancer increases.
- Health Condition: There is no doubt that age is a risk factor for prostate cancer. However, smoking and obesity are more likely to lead to death from prostate cancer.
- BRCA2 gene carrier: Approximately 5-10% of prostate cancer cases are linked to inherited mutations
It’s All About Early Detection
The best chance of successful treatment of prostate cancer is early detection when the cancer is still in the gland. Screenings are the most effective way to do so. When you are 55 or older, you must schedule an appointment for screening. Those with a family history of prostate cancer or members of high-risk groups for prostate cancer must get their prostates checked earlier. Some of the diagnostic tools that doctors will request are:
- Digital Rectal Exam (DRE): Your doctor inserts a gloved finger into your rectum to examine your prostate during a DRE. During your prostate exam, your doctor will feel for any hard lumps that could be cancerous.
- Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test: A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test determines PSA level in the blood. PSA is a hormone produced by the prostate. People with prostate cancer have elevated levels of PSA in their blood.
- Biopsy: During a biopsy, your healthcare provider takes a sample of the prostate gland to perform an evaluation.
- Bone scan
- CT scan
- MRI scan
Survival rates for men with prostate cancer have improved over the years, thanks to advancements in screening and treatment. Almost 90% percent of prostate cancer patients today live at least five years after diagnosis. Complications from other diseases are often the reason for premature death.
The Best Prevention and Treatment Options For Prostate Cancer
Several risk factors for prostate cancer, such as ethnic origin and age, cannot be controlled, so there is no sure-fire way to prevent it. Medical experts, however, agree that maintaining a healthy lifestyle may reduce the risk of cancer. Here are a few ways to live a healthy lifestyle:
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. Before starting any strenuous activity, it’s best to get a doctor’s approval.
- Make healthy eating a priority by eating fruits, vegetables, omega3-rich foods, and whole grains while limiting or avoiding red and processed meat, sugary drinks, and highly processed foods.
Some tumors grow slowly while others advance rapidly and require aggressive treatment. Patients with advanced prostate cancer (such as those with metastases to other parts of the body) cannot be cured but can be controlled for many years. The type of treatment you will receive depends on the stage of your cancer, risk levels, age, the current state of your health, as well as the treatment’s long-term and adverse effects.
In cases of non-aggressive cancer, active surveillance may be recommended. In other words, you will not undergo treatment but continue to visit your doctor for regular examinations to monitor your condition. Other treatment options for more aggressive cancers include the following:
- Surgical procedure
- Hormonal therapy
Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk with Good Health!
Prostate cancer is a silent killer, and early detection could save your life! If you experience any symptoms, see your doctor right away for an examination or test. PHWC is here with you every step of the way, providing help on lifestyle changes that may help prevent it, and how to live well after diagnosis. Start your journey to better health. Contact or schedule an appointment online to get started!