31 Aug Things Every Man Should Know About Prostate Cancer
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and at Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, we believe that prevention begins with understanding. This blog will give you an in-depth look at the things every man – and woman! – should know about prostate cancer.
What is it?
The prostate is a small rubbery gland – about the size of a ping pong ball – that sits under the bladder and in front of the rectum. Prostate cancer occurs when a normal prostate cell becomes altered and starts growing in an uncontrolled way. For most men, it is relatively slow growing and, therefore, could take years to become detectable.
Who does it affect?
About 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Age is the biggest risk factor, with rates of diagnosis rising in men past age 50. A man’s genes and family also play a big role in their risk. A close family diagnosis, such as a brother, father, grandfather, or uncle, can result in more than a double chance of diagnosis. These increased risks have been linked to genes in families diagnosed with cancer types, including breast, colon, ovarian, and pancreatic. Studies have shown that race is also a factor, with African Americans being 75% more likely to be diagnosed than white men. Lastly, an increased risk of a cancer diagnosis can be linked to particular lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, or smoking.
Often, men do not experience any symptoms or early warning signs regarding prostate cancer. In most cases, it does not cause pain and can be silent for years. In rare cases or at advanced stages, there may be symptoms that include:
- Urinating frequently, especially at night, sometimes urgently
- Difficulty urinating or holding back urine
- Weak, dribbling, or interrupted flowing urine
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty having an erection
- A decrease in the amount of ejaculation or painful ejaculation
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Pressure or pain in the rectum
- Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, pelvis, or thighs
Please remember, just because you have any of these symptoms does not mean you have cancer. Consult with your health care professional on your next steps for screening.
Experts recommend screening – most commonly with the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test and the DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) – at 40 years old if you have risk factors or at 45 years old otherwise. Screening is essential to catch silent, slow-growing prostate cancer. If your PSA is above a 3 or 4, consult your health care provider for further testing. If you have the aforementioned family risk factors, consider getting genetic testing done and completing regular family screening.
There is no proven way to prevent a prostate cancer diagnosis completely. However, some strategies have been suggested as improvements for prevention. First, eating an anti-inflammatory diet – low in animal products and processed food and high in vegetables, whole grains, and beans – has shown to be helpful, as well as exercising and maintaining a healthy weight. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower in specific have been said to help your body against specific prostate cancer-related bacteria. Apart from diet and exercise, avoid smoking for many reasons linked to cancer diagnosis. Lastly, try to enjoy life and relax as stress has been shown to lead to a longer and happier life.
There is no one set plan for the treatment of prostate cancer. It is important to speak with your health care professionals to create a plan that works for you. Common treatments that may be suggested for prostate cancer confined to the prostate include radiation, surgery, and active surveillance. For prostate cancer that has spread outside of the prostate, there are many life-extending treatments available. Overall, treatment rates for prostate cancer are high compared to most other cancer in the body, and 99% of all prostate cancer is treatable if detected early. The U.S. also leads the world in reducing prostate cancer death.
For more information on prostate cancer, visit our Facebook page for a look into myths, signs and symptoms, questions to ask your doctor, and much more. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our center at 907-586-5762 with any questions.