Dr Zuze Matters of Health
AT some point in their lives, all men face the prospect of prostate cancer.
This is one of the commonest cancers found in men. The prostate, by the way, is a small gland located just under the bladder that produces the seminal fluid which nourishes and transports sperm during sexual intercourse.
In the early stages of prostate cancer, there may be no signs or symptoms.
Advanced prostate cancer, however, may manifest as difficulty in passing urine, reduced force in the stream of urine, blood in the urine, blood in semen, pain in the lower back, hips or thighs, pelvic discomfort, bone pain and erectile dysfunction.
It is not clear what really causes prostate cancer. It begins when some cells in the prostate become abnormal and begin to grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells do. These abnormal cancerous cells live longer than ordinary cells. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumour that can grow to invade nearby tissue while some abnormal cells spread to other parts of the body via the bloodstream.
The factors that would make one more likely to get prostate cancer include;
◆ Old age. The risk of prostate cancer increases with age. They say by the age of 80 years, 80 percent of men will have prostate cancer.
◆ Race. Black men have a higher risk of prostate cancer than other races. Prostate cancer, for some reason, is also more aggressive in black men.
◆ Family history. You are at a higher risk if men in your family have had prostate cancer. You will also be at higher risk if the women in your family are prone to breast cancer.
◆ Obesity. Obese men with prostate cancer are more likely to have advanced disease which is more difficult to treat.
Prostate cancer is not without complications. These include
◆ Metastasis; where the cancer spreads to nearby organs or travels through the blood to distant organs. In the bones, it causes weakness and chronic bone pain and it also disrupts the function of various organs giving varying symptoms. Once it has spread, it can no-longer be cured and will ultimately lead to death.
◆ Incontinence; which is failure to control the flow of urine. A urinary catheter, which is a tube inserted through the urethra, as well as some medications and surgery may be useful in controlling this.
◆ Erectile dysfunction; may result from the actual prostate cancer or from various medications used in its treatment.
Screening for prostate cancer is a useful way of catching it early.
A digital rectal exam involves your doctor inserting a gloved finger into your rectum and feeling for the prostate. If it feels suspicious, further tests would be needed. A prostate specific antigen (PSA) test involves sending a blood sample to the lab. High PSA levels may indicate prostate infection, enlargement or cancer. Studies, however, haven’t really proved that these screening tests save lives and the debate is ongoing.
A biopsy is usually necessary to confirm prostate cancer and once the diagnosis is made other tests including a bone scan, ultrasound or CT scan may be done to determine how far the cancer has spread. Prostate cancer is staged from 1 to 4 with stage 4 being the worst. There are various treatment options, depending on the stage and these include medication, surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Alternative prostate cancer treatments that may help you cope with the stress and anxiety of a diagnosis of cancer include exercise, meditation, music therapy, relaxation techniques and spirituality among others.
In men, prostate cancer is almost inevitable but the following may help reduce your risk.
◆ Eat a healthy diet; avoid high fat foods and include plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet. A nutrient called lycopene which is found in raw potatoes has been found to help prostate cancer prevention.
◆ Exercise; exercise improves your overall health, helps you maintain your weight and improves your mood. Some evidence suggests that men who get the most exercise have a lower incidence of prostate cancer.
◆ Maintain a healthy weight. Your doctor can help create a plan for healthy weight loss.
◆ Stop smoking. Smoking increases your risk of not only prostate cancer but almost all cancers.
If you are worried about prostate cancer or need prostate cancer screening, please visit your doctor.