According to cancer.org, around 1 in 8 males will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Surely, you do not want to be that one.
Do not fret; prostate cancer is both preventable and treatable as long as you know what to do. Put the glass down and read along so you or your loved one will not be the unlucky ones.
Males have this small and soft organ the size of a walnut sitting deep in the pelvis, just between the bladder and the penis. This is the prostate.
The prostate is a part of the male reproductive system. While it is not necessarily essential for life, it plays a crucial role in male fertility. Among the functions of the prostate include:
- Helping in semen production; and
- Closing the urethra upon ejaculation.
Additionally, the prostate affects urine flow since the urethra or the tube responsible for carrying urine and semen passes through it.
Prostate Cancer Overview
Prostate cancer, when detected in its early stages, is highly treatable. For this reason, routine screening for males is highly encouraged.
According to statistics, 1 in 41 males can die due to prostate cancer. While this can sound frightening, the good news is that treatments are effective.
While prostate cancer is considered to be one of the most common cancer types, this does not mean that you or your loved one should take it for granted. True, some cases tend to progress slowly and be isolated to the prostate gland. However, if left untouched, there can be some types that can spread quickly and be aggressive.
It is important to know the stages of prostate cancer so you or your loved one may be informed of what to expect.
- Stage 0 – Pre-cancerous cells are present and slow-growing in a small area of the prostate.
- Stage 1 (Localized) – Cancerous cells are only present in the prostate gland and are highly treatable.
- Stage 2-3 (Regional) – Cancerous cells have spread to other tissues near the prostate gland.
- Stage 4 (Distant) – Cancerous cells have spread to other parts and organs of the body.
Symptoms of prostate cancer during its early stages are almost undetectable — unless one undergoes screening. During the screening test, high levels of PSAs or prostate-specific antigens in the blood can suggest that cancerous cells may be present.
If the stage has become more advanced, the following signs and symptoms can be apparent:
- Difficulty in urinating, including pain and frequency.
- Blood mixing in with the urine and/or the semen.
- Painful ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.
- In some cases, when the prostate is enlarged, sitting can be painful.
You or your loved one should seek a doctor’s consultation if any of the above-mentioned symptoms persist. The following additional symptoms may occur if the prostate cancer worsens:
- Edema or swelling (legs or feet)
- Unexplained sudden weight loss
- Changing bowel habits
- Back and bone pain
As the prostate primarily plays a role in reproduction, fertility is at risk when one has developed prostate cancer. Treatments, in particular, can affect semen production.
For instance, surgery done to remove the prostate gland or radiation therapy affecting the prostate tissues can reduce the amount of semen produced and damage the sperm. Remember that there is no guarantee for a normal fertility rate after the cancer treatment. If you or your loved one still has plans to have a child, such plans should be discussed with your doctor.
You can choose some semen preserving options like:
- Banking the sperm before surgery; or
- Extracting the sperm from the testicles for artificial insemination procedure.
Cause and Risk Factors
The cause for developing prostate cancer is unclear. However, various risk factors may contribute to a person’s chance of developing prostate cancer.
- Old age – The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age. Men beyond 50 years old are most at risk.
- Race – Although the reasons are undetermined, people of Black descent show a greater risk of developing prostate cancer compared to people of other races. They also tend to have more aggressive and advanced variants of this ailment.
- Genetics – Your family history can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer. Having a blood relative who has been diagnosed with such is a factor. Moreover, if anyone in the family has been diagnosed with breast cancer, the chance of prostate cancer also rises.
- Obesity – Those who are diagnosed as obese may have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer compared to people of healthy weight.
The following factors, while still in need of more evidence, are also considered:
- Chemical exposure
- Prostate inflammation
- Sexually transmitted infection
Does alcohol contribute to having prostate cancer?
Currently, there has been no direct link between a higher risk of prostate cancer and alcohol drinking. While alcohol intake may appear as a risk factor, this has not yet been proven. Some studies may indicate that alcohol consumption in man’s earlier years can affect the risk of developing prostate cancer once they get older.
However, since drinking plenty of alcohol can lead to excessive urinating and have erection difficulties, these symptoms can be mistaken for having prostate cancer in its early stage. Furthermore, it is generally good to maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially when one is undergoing cancer treatment of any kind. This naturally means that drinking in moderation will help in the process.
Speaking of treatments, people under medication for prostate cancer are not encouraged to drink alcohol as it can sometimes affect the medication. If one is undergoing radiation therapy, the act is also not advisable since the therapy can cause tiredness and a sensitive stomach. It is best to seek your doctor’s advice regarding alcohol intake.
Treatment of prostate cancer primarily depends on the stage it is in. For early stages, the doctor may recommend the following:
- Watchful monitoring
This includes regular checking of PSA levels in the blood and nothing more. Since the growth of cancer cells is slow, the risk of any side effects may offset any need for immediate treatment.
The surgeon can choose to carry out a prostatectomy or removal of the prostate gland. This can either be through laparoscopic or open surgery.
- Radiation Therapy
Treatment involving radiation therapy depends on various factors, but options may include:
- Brachytherapy or implantation of radioactive seeds in the prostate to deliver the targeted radiation treatment; or
- Conformal radiation therapy that targets a specific area and minimizes the risk to healthy tissues.
For prostate cancer in its advanced stage, the treatment options shall also change to:
The cancer cells could be killed through this treatment. However, some adverse side effects may occur.
- Hormonal Therapy
Blocking or reducing the male hormones androgens (specifically testosterone and dihydrotestosterone) may stop or delay cancer cell growth. One can either choose to take various drugs or opt to remove the testicles altogether since this is where the body produces most of its hormones.
Choosing to be healthy now will make your older self grateful in the future. Reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer by:
- Choosing to adopt a healthier diet filled with fruits and vegetables
A healthier diet no doubt improves one’s overall health. Learn to eat healthy meals throughout the day consisting of various fruits and vegetables. Add whole grains to your diet and explore healthier alternatives to your favorite dishes.
- Choosing to eat whole and healthy foods rather than over-relying on food supplements
So far, no studies are showing that supplements can help reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. If such is the case, why waste your money on them when you can have filling, delicious meals with whole foods?
Not only can whole foods make you feel satisfied for longer hours, but it is also filled with plenty of vitamins and minerals that contribute to a healthier body!
- Having a regular exercise routine
Having a healthy diet is not enough. You should also start making an effort toward building a regular exercise routine.
Your body is made to move around so consider dedicating some of your time for most days a week to an hour or two of exercise. Not only will it benefit you physically, but it will also contribute to better mental and emotional function.
- Maintaining a healthier weight
If you will remember, one of the risk factors for prostate cancer is obesity. If your current weight is already healthy, learn to maintain it by continuing with your healthy lifestyle.
However, if there is a need for you to lose some weight, it will help to have changes in your diet and addition to your exercise routine.
Do you still have your beer with you? Why not completely abandon it and start reaching for a refreshing glass of water?
Always remember that the body just needs one thing from you so that all its parts – the prostate gland included – can have a lower risk of developing cancer or any other complications for that matter. Choose to be healthy!