September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. To increase awareness and spread potentially life-saving information, we are going to explain some of the main causes, signs and symptoms, and treatment options for men with Prostate Cancer. Remember that the survival rate for Prostate Cancer is extremely high and that most men who contract it will not die from it. The most important thing to do is to educate yourself and/or the men in your family. Awareness is key! Although it can be scary to undergo screening or to even speak with your doctor about the potential risk of having Prostate Cancer, early detection and treatment have a much more favorable outcome than allowing cancer to progress.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Prostate Cancer is the second most common form of cancer among men in the United States. It is second only to non-melanoma skin cancer and is the fifth leading cause of death worldwide. While it may seem surprising that there are more cases of Prostate Cancer in developed countries, risk factors for the disease include overall health, diet, weight, and exercise. Considering the rate of obesity, the mass consumption of fast food and junk food, and the sedentary lifestyle primarily found in the first world, perhaps the prevalence of Prostate Cancer here isn’t so surprising after all. Genetics also have a heavy hand in determining a person’s potential risk. Studies have shown that men of African descent (in the Americas, the Caribbean, and in Europe) possess a genetic disposition that makes them more prone to both developing prostate cancer, and also at a younger age than men of other races.
What is the Cause of Prostate Cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, “Prostate Cancer is caused by changes in the DNA of a normal prostate cell.” It can be caused by DNA mutations or other changes that can lead to the overgrowth of cells. These changes, or mutations, can be inherited from generation to generation (which causes hereditary cancer), or they can be acquired throughout a man’s lifetime. While certain risk factors, such as age, race, and genetics cannot be controlled or mitigated, there are things that you can do to lower your risk.
In studies conducted by the American Cancer Society, obese and overweight men were found to be at more risk of developing prostate cancer. They are also more prone to develop advanced prostate cancer which patients are less likely to survive. In order to mitigate this risk factor, men are advised to both maintain an adequate amount of physical activity, and to adhere to a healthy diet. Several studies have also linked a higher risk of prostate cancer with over-consumption of dairy products and calcium. It is important to eat a balanced diet, full of nutrient-dense foods, and dietary fiber. Avoid consuming sugars, processed foods, and “empty” calories.
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Signs & Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
Perhaps the scariest thing about Prostate Cancer is that more often than not, it can go completely undetected without a formal screening by a medical professional. For that reason, it is important to talk with your doctor about when and how often you need to be screened. That being said, in the rare cases where symptoms are apparent, they may resemble those of a urinary tract infection (UTI).
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, they may include the following:
- A need to urinate frequently, especially at night, and sometimes urgently
- Difficulty starting or holding back urination
- Weak, dribbling, or interrupted flow of urine
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty having an erection
- A decrease in the amount of fluid ejaculated
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
- Pressure or pain in the rectum
- Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, pelvis, or thighs.
If you or any of the men in your family are experiencing these symptoms, be sure to speak with your doctor as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment of Prostate Cancer can save lives.
Prostate Cancer Treatment
You may be wondering what treatment options are available and what they entail. The treatment and prognosis (AKA, chance of recovery) are dependent upon a few factors. The first determining factor is what stage of cancer the patient is in. Early stages are obviously much easier to treat and eradicate from the body. In cases where the cancerous cells have vastly multiplied and spread to other parts of the body (by way of tissue, the lymph system, or blood), treatment becomes more intense or may not even be possible. Treatment options will also depend on the age of the patient and whether the cancer is a new diagnosis or is recurring. It may be more difficult to treat Prostate Cancer for a second or third time.
The main treatments for Prostate Cancer include surveillance, surgery, radiation therapy or radiopharmaceutical therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or bisphosphonate therapy. The proper mode of treatment will be determined by a healthcare professional and will depend on the patient’s specific set of circumstances. Clinical trials for new treatments are underway. They include cryosurgery, high-intensity-focused ultrasound therapy, proton beam radiation therapy, and photodynamic therapy. Many of the available treatments may cause side effects. It is important to ask your doctor about any potential complications.
Remember, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. There is a very high survival rate (nearly 100% of 5-year Localized and Regional cases). All SEER stages combined boast a promising 98% survival rate. The most important things you can do to mitigate your risk are to ask your doctor for regular screenings and to maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan. The sooner Prostate Cancer is detected, the greater the chances are of survival.