By Sola Ogundipe
Prostate cancer is the No.1 cause of cancer death in men. It is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form in the tissues of the prostate – a walnut-sized gland in the male reproductive system. The prostate makes most of the semen that carries sperms and is a major health concern for men. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men.
The worst part of prostate cancer is that the symptoms don’t appear in the early stage. This makes diagnosis difficult and treatment almost impossible in the advanced stage when the chances for recovery are very low. Many prostate cancers are slow growing and will not affect a man’s health or life, because men generally die from other causes before the cancer kills them. But once prostate cancer begins to grow quickly or spreads outside the prostate, it is dangerous. This is why all men should do tests at least once a year as preventive measure.
Urinary red flags
Problems with urinating (in some situations while standing up) and urination especially during the night are typical. Other warning signs include inability to start urination or problem with holding back while urinating; weak urine stream or inability to complete the urination; burning sensation while urinating.
Other warning signs
Other red flags include blood in the urine or sperm; ejaculation problems; pain in the hips, thighs and lower back; pelvic distress; bone torment and Erectile Dysfunction. Dull or severe pain in the lower back, ribs, pelvis or upper thigh should never be ignored. In its progressive stage, prostate cancer can have other symptoms – weight reduction without a reason, tiredness, and nausea, loss of appetite, leg swelling and weakness in the lower limbs.While these symptoms do not necessarily appear as a result of cancer, it is often the result of blockage that occurs in the prostate. This is why the cancer progression influences urination and sexual activity. Hence it is necessary to go for screening and diagnosis.
Disease of old age
Generally, it is a disease of old age and rarely found in men under age 40. About 80 per cent of cases are in men over 60, and less than 1 per cent of cases are in men under 50. Men with a family history of prostate cancer are more likely to get it. As many as 75 percent of men over 80 are known to have had prostate cancer when they died, though the disease is not necessarily lethal.
Are you at risk?
Should you or shouldn’t you get screened? Doctors can screen for prostate cancer using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, but its use in healthy men without symptoms remains controversial. Routine prostate cancer screening is known to save lives but may need to be carried out for more than 10 years to have a benefit.
Risk of meat consumption
Among the causes prostate cancer, diet is significant. Do you consume a lot of meat and meat products? Prostate cancer is much more common among meat and dairy consumers than among those that consume rice, soybean products, and vegetables. Eating lots of fat from red meat is a high risk. Meat cooked at high temperatures (roasting, broiling, sauteing or barbecuing) produces cancer-causing substances that affect the prostate. Eating fats raises the amount of testosterone (male sex hormone) in the body, and this speeds the growth of prostate cancer.
Welders, battery manufacturers, rubber workers, and workers frequently exposed to the metal cadmium seem to be more likely to get prostate cancer. Sedentary lifestyle also makes prostate cancer more likely. Age, race, diet, family history all play a part in contributing to prostate cancer risks.
Screening and diagnosis
Screening can help find the cancer at an early stage. Common screen tests are the Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test that measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made mostly by the prostate that may be found in an increased amount in the blood of men who have prostate cancer. The level of PSA may also be high in men who have an infection or inflammation of the prostate or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) – an enlarged, but noncancerous, prostate. If a man has a high PSA level and a biopsy of the prostate does not show cancer, a more advanced test – the prostate cancer gene 3 (PCA3) test may be done.
False negative and false positive tests
A man who receives a false-negative test result (one that shows there is no cancer when there really is) may delay seeking medical care even if he has symptoms. False-positive test results can also occur. Screening test results may appear to be abnormal even though no cancer is present. A false-positive test result (one that shows there is cancer when there really isn’t) can cause anxiety and is usually followed by more tests, (such as biopsy) which also have risks.
Over-diagnosis is a problem because men may receive tests and treatment they do not need. Before having any screening test, discuss with your doctor. It is important to know the risks of the test and whether it has been proven to reduce the risk of dying from cancer. Screening may not improve your health or help you live longer if you have cancer that has already spread outside of the prostate or to other places in your body.
Treatments for prostate cancer may include surveillance, surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, vaccine therapy, and other medical therapies that can affect prostate cancer cell growth. In its early stages, prostate cancer can be treated with very good chances for survival, but cancer that has spread beyond the prostate is not curable, but it may be controlled for many years. Some men with advanced prostate cancer live a normal life and die of another cause, such as heart disease.
Monitoring rather than treating
Currently, about 10 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer delay treatment, while the remaining 90 percent receive treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy. Men diagnosed with prostate cancer could delay treatment with a strategy called “active surveillance”, under which patients with low-risk prostate cancer receive regular follow-up testing and are treated only if the cancer becomes more aggressive. Active surveillance is a way to reduce the harms of screening.
One way to reduce prostate cancer risk is with diet. Vegetarians have a lower risk of prostate cancer than men who eat meat. Adding certain foods including tomato sauce and vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage in diet may also help reduce the risk. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight; be physically active; eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid taking any supplements not prescribed by doctors. A nutrient called lycopene, found in tomatoes, has been consistently linked with lower prostate cancer risk. If you’re living with prostate cancer, you may be able to live longer and healthier by making changes to your eating, exercise and lifestyle routine.