If you participated in or contributed to the annual Movember campaign that just concluded last month, you've helped support the dialogue about men's health. Of course, a dialogue is most powerful when it is ongoing. We want to continue to encourage conversation about men's health by focusing on one of the most common cancers specific to men: prostate cancer.
What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is the second highest cause of cancer-related death for American men (the first is lung cancer). It is one of the top diseases affecting North American males, and is related to the prostate gland, which is in the male reproductive system. The prostate produces most of the body's semen. This cancer typically develops slowly over a long period of time, and often isn't diagnosed in men before the age of 50.
Prostate health and awareness is important since it is highly curable if detected, diagnosed and effectively treated early enough. At the same time, being aware of the state of your prostate health will help minimize the chances of the disease growing undetected and spreading beyond the prostate to the lymph nodes, bones or lungs. Once the cancer spreads beyond the prostate, it is not curable, but can be managed. Of course, preventing its development in the first place is ideal.
How is Prostate Cancer Treated?
Depending on your specific diagnosis, your treatment plan will be different. Since this is a disease that often develops over a long period of time, if your condition is expected to grow slowly, your doctor may simply schedule you to come in for testing every 6 months, and perform annual biopsies. For some, your management of prostate cancer may only consist of this active monitoring unless there is any change in your symptoms or condition.
If the prostate cancer is not diagnosed until it is more advanced, or if your doctor recommends taking action before the cancer spreads beyond your prostate gland, then methods such as radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, hormone treatment, or vaccines may be considered. Again, the type of treatment will be determined by your specific health factors, including your age, other health conditions, and the pros and cons of the treatment.
How to Lower Prostate Cancer Risk
Men who are at a higher risk of prostate cancer include those who have a family history of the disease, are over 60 years old, or are African American. While there are no obvious red flags when prostate cancer is first developing, men can be aware of symptoms that suggest there could be prostate gland issues. See your doctor if you experience any of the following:
Difficulty beginning or stopping urination
Blood in semen
Knowing what these symptoms may indicate is one of the best ways to stay on top of your prostate health. It is also a good idea to go for regular checkups with your doctor,
and to get referred to a good urologist if any symptoms arise.
To lower your risk of developing prostate cancer, it is definitely beneficial to develop healthy lifestyle habits as early as possible. It is recommended that men maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and eat 2-3 cups of fruits and vegetables daily to minimize risk of disease.