Health & Wellness from Carol

September Is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer among American men. The prostate is a walnut-sized organ located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum in men. It produces fluid that makes up a part of semen. The prostate gland surrounds the urethra (the tube that carries urine and semen through the penis and out of the body). A man will be diagnosed with prostate cancer every 3 minutes. African-American men are 2.4 times more likely to die of prostate cancer than Caucasian men. Prostate cancer is 100% treatable if detected early. Each year over 230,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and about 30,000 will die from it. Having a father, brother, or son who has had prostate cancer increases the risk. Men may also be at increased risk of prostate cancer if they have a strong family history of other cancers, such as breast cancer, colon cancer, or pancreatic cancer. More aggressive and fatal prostate cancers likely have different underlying cause than slow-growing tumors. For example, while smoking has not been thought to be a risk factor for low-risk prostate cancer, it may be a risk factor for aggressive prostate cancer. Likewise, lack of vegetables in the diet (especially broccoli-family vegetables) is linked to a higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer, but not to low-risk prostate cancer. For men who have prostate cancer, being obese and continuing to gain weight is associated with a higher disease recurrence and death. Smoking is a risk factor for prostate cancer death. When you quit smoking, your body starts to heal, and your risk of being cured of localized prostate cancer goes way up.

Other risk factors for AGGRESSIVE prostate cancer include: tall height (A tall man has a greater risk.), lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle, high calcium intake, African-American race, family history, and Agent Orange.

Prostate cancer seldom causes symptoms but you need to be aware of what they are.
These symptoms frequently are the cause of minor problems like prostatitis, urinary tract infection, and benign prostate enlargement and erectile dysfunction with age:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night; sometimes urgently.
  • Weak, dribbling, or interrupted flow of urine
  • Painful, burning with urination or blood in the urine or semen
  • Difficulty in having an erection
  • A decrease in the amount of fluid ejaculated or painful ejaculation
  • Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, pelvis, or thighs

 

MYTHS:

  • Age related prostate enlargement and prostatitis (prostate infection) increase the chances of prostate cancer. (It does not)
  • Having a vasectomy increases the risk of prostate cancer.(It does not)
  • Frequent ejaculation increases the risk.(It may actually lower the risk.)
  • There an association between alcohol consumption and prostate cancer. (There is not)

Two tests are commonly used to screen for prostate cancer.

Digital rectal exam (DRE):
A doctor or nurse inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to estimate the size of the prostate and feel for lumps or other abnormalities.

Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test:
Measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate. The levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer. The PSA level may also be elevated in other conditions that affect the prostate. A PSA test can find prostate cancer earlier than no screening at all. However, the PSA test may have false positive or false negative results. Guidelines differ for men at average risk. Some experts recommend an initial PSA and DRE at age 40, and others recommend starting at age 50. In general, all men should create a baseline PSA for reference. Talk with your healthcare provider about when to begin PSA screening. Research in the past few years has shown that diet modification might decrease the chances of developing prostate cancer, reduce the likelihood of having a prostate cancer recurrence, or help slow the progression of the disease. You can learn more about how dietary and lifestyle changes can affect the risk of prostate cancer development and progression in Prostate Cancer Foundation’s, Health and Wellness: Living with Prostate Cancer guide.

REDUCING THE RISK

  • Statins, aspirin and vitamin E may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Replacing animal fat with vegetable fat creates a lower risk of dying from cancer.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids in seeds, nuts, olive oil, and other vegetable oils are especially good if fish isn’t to your liking.
  • Antioxidants help to neutralize and remove free radicals from the body. Berries are great source, particularly strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries (the brighter the better.)
  • Cooked tomatoes: Lycopene is another powerful antioxidant and is found in the cell walls of tomatoes. The cooking process loosens the bond, making it easier for our bodies to access the antioxidant and send it to the prostate.
  • Tomato sauce, paste, juice, and sun dried tomatoes help our bodies make the most of this nutritional superstar. Even better: tomatoes cooked in olive oil.
  • Broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, kale, cauliflower and brussel sprouts contain a phytochemical which is suspected to target and kill cancer cells while leaving healthy prostate cells to fight another day. They may help prevent prostate cancer from occurring.
  • Green Tea is another great source of antioxidants. It believed to be anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic (preventing healthy cells from mutating).
  • By increasing your intake of healthy fats, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory foods, you can help keep your prostate healthy.

There are new trends in research. Precision medicine which includes genetic counseling, immunotherapy, hormone therapy are a few examples. Men and their families are more involved in the treatment process than ever before, making the prostate cancer journey a collective family affair. With the Gleason Grading system of prostate cancer, it may be determined that “active surveillance” may be an initial alternative. The PSA would be monitored closely with repeat biopsies.

Treatment options of surgery and radiation have improved. Radiation is more exact, whereas it used to be crude. There are fewer side effects and cure rates are higher. Research has specifically shown that combining radiation with hormones provides substantial benefits to patients, with a cure rate that is equal to that of surgery. A nerve-sparing technique in robotic surgery for prostate cancer has become the gold standard for prostate removal. Utilizing the latest now takes 2-3 hours with negligible blood loss, and hospital stays have been reduced to 24 hours. Most importantly, robotic prostatectomies carry upwards of 80% nerve-sparing potential, with only a 1-2% risk of serious incontinence. This means that men diagnosed with prostate cancer today can resume a normal lifestyle in ways that were impossible for their predecessors. Patients are finally afforded a chance to resume a normal sex life following surgery.