Prostate cancer affects 1 in 7 men throughout their lifetime and many men, it turns out, are not even aware of what the prostate does or how it impacts their overall health. For Prostate Cancer Awareness month, we wanted to share some key risk factors, symptoms and prevention tips.
Knowledge is empowering. And educating men about maintaining prostate health, measures to potentially reduce risk of prostate cancer, and what signs and symptoms to look for brings us one step closer to reducing the number of deaths each year from this significant disease.
Prostate cancer certainly can be a complex and serious illness, but remember — it doesn’t have to be a fatal one. Be proactive and partner with your healthcare providers. Ask questions, stay informed, maintain good health habits, and follow the advice of your caregivers.
It’s more than possible to manage prostate cancer and continue living your life — to its fullest.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT PROSTATE CANCER
If you’re one of those people unacquainted with the prostate, here are some basics: It is a small, walnut-shaped organ — found only in men, of course — that produces seminal fluid to nourish and protect sperm.
While the prostate performs an important biological function, it’s not vital to your health. More impactful, however, are the health problems and challenges the prostate creates when something goes amiss, as with cancer.
The prostate contains several types of cells including the glandular cells, which generate seminal fluid — they are responsible for 99 percent of prostate cancers.
While prostate cancer has high occurrences in men, we still don’t understand why and how prostate cancer develops. It does have some astonishing statistics:
- Prostate cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer among men — second only to skin cancer.
- It’s the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., behind lung cancer.
- It’s the third-leading cause of cancer death for men in Nevada.
- Prostate cancer is rare among men under the age of 40.
- 6 in 10 cases occur among men 65 and older.
- According to the American Cancer Society, in 2015 more than 220,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the U.S.; 27,540 men will die from the disease.
Those statistics may sound bleak, but that’s just part of the story.
The reality is that prostate cancer survival rates are surprisingly high. The disease tends to grow at a slow rate, and most men diagnosed — especially if the disease is detected early — survive.
Just 1 in 35 men will die from the disease this year, and there are a whopping 2.9 million prostate cancer survivors in the U.S. Those are encouraging numbers.
Information about how you can reduce your risk is limited. But Renown Cancer Nurse Navigator Lisa Gardner notes that currently there are three evidence-based, uncontrollable risk factors — age, ethnicity and heredity.
- Age: Risk of prostate cancer rises exponentially over age 50. Most men with prostate cancer are age 65 or older.
- Race/Ethnicity: Prostate cancers occur more among African-American men and Caribbean men of African descent. African-American men are twice as likely to die from the disease as white men, and there are fewer occurrences among Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino men than non-Hispanic whites.
- Heredity: Prostate cancer runs in some families, suggesting an inherited or genetic factor. Men with affected relatives, including a father or brother, are at higher risk.
Lisa confirms that prostate cancer cannot be prevented, but she offers a few tips and lifestyle changes that may potentially lower risk of prostate cancer and improve your overall health in the process:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat fat from red meats and dairy sparingly
- Increase daily intake of fruits and vegetables
- Eat more fish, especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids
- Avoid smoking and tobacco
- Maintain on-going communication with your doctor
Signs, Symptoms and Detection
Prostate cancer can easily go undetected because there no signs or symptoms in its early stages. If the cancer has progressed you may experience:
- Problems urinating — slow or weak flow, the need to urinate often, or loss of bladder control
- Blood in urine
- Erectile dysfunction
- Pain in the hips, spine and chest/ribs, and potentially other areas if cancer has spread to the bones
- Weakness or numbness in the legs and feet
Some of these symptoms could stem from other health issues. So consult with your doctor if you experience any of these conditions to determine the root of the problem.
Your primary care physician is your first line of defense when it comes to prostate cancer and, if required, will direct you to the appropriate specialists to determine if testing is needed.