Men, listen up! Here\’s the basics of what you need to know to help prevent prostate cancer.
Men are finally getting their health act together. We march into our doctors’ offices to get digital rectal exams for prostate cancer. We hope that if we have prostate cancer, it can be detected early, because we know the earlier cancer is detected, the greater our chance of survival.
Raising prostate cancer awareness
We grow moustaches each November to raise money for prostate cancer awareness and to improve the quality of life for men and their families living with, and surviving, prostate cancer. Those moustaches have raised $550 million to fund 800 programs in 21 countries during Movember campaigns. Men are raising public awareness about prostate cancer, and learning its signs and symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
The Canadian Cancer Society has outlined the common signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, including
- frequent urination, especially at night
- difficulty starting or stopping the urine flow
- inability to urinate
- weak or decreased urine stream
- interrupted urine stream
- a sense of incompletely emptying the bladder
- burning or pain during urination
Symptoms at later stages, when prostate cancer has spread to other areas of the body, include
- bone pain in the neck, back, hips, and thighs
- weight loss
- low red blood cell count (anemia)
- weakness or numbness in the legs or feet
- loss of bladder or bowel control
How is it detected?
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing
PSA is a protein made by prostate gland cells. PSA testing measures how much PSA is in the blood. This test has been used to detect prostate cancer and to monitor the recurrence or progression of the cancer. The problem is that the presence of PSA in the blood does not necessarily mean there is a cancer, and it may yield a false positive result.
As a result, in 2014 the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommended foregoing the test for men of all ages who had not previously been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The task force states it will monitor prostate cancer screening and update its findings by 2019.
The digital rectal examination
This simple test is used to check the health of the prostate. A health care practitioner inserts a gloved finger into the rectum and feels the prostate for hard, lumpy, or abnormal areas. It only takes a couple of minutes. This test is usually recommended for men aged 50 and older. If there’s a family history of prostate cancer, it may be recommended at a younger age.
What causes it?
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in Canadian men. It begins when some of the prostate’s glandular cells don’t behave normally. This may lead to noncancerous conditions such as prostatitis or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), other precancerous conditions, or cancer. A malignant tumour that starts in the prostate’s cells can spread to other areas of the body.
One thing in life that we cannot control is our genetics. Family history can increase a man’s prostate cancer risk. If a father or brother has been diagnosed with prostate cancer at a younger age, for example under 55, a man’s risk increases. Men of African heritage have a 60 percent higher rate of developing prostate cancer than Caucasian men.
Where we live
Men who live south of 40 degrees latitude have a lower incidence of prostate cancer than those who live north of the 40th parallel. This may indicate a need for vitamin D supplementation for northern men, who receive less vitamin D-producing sunlight.
How to prevent prostate cancer
Unlike genetics, we may be able to control some of the environmental causes of prostate cancer.
This nasty habit has been shown to play a role in aggressive types of prostate cancer.
Modify your diet
Diet can influence prostate cancer. To prevent and limit further cancerous growth, researchers recommend avoiding processed meats and red meats, particularly grilled, fried, and broiled; as well as limiting dairy products and refined grains. Increase the intake of fruits and vegetables by adopting a plant-based diet. Studies show a vegan diet can help lower PSA levels in the blood.
This bright red antioxidant in tomatoes has been found to help prevent prostate cancer. A study found that men who ate two servings of tomato sauce a week had a 23 percent reduced prostate cancer risk. Cooking tomatoes with olive oil has been shown to increase lycopene absorption. Lycopene is also found in guava, apricots, and watermelon.
Required for many bodily functions, calcium is found in dairy products and in vegetables such as kale and broccoli. Some studies have suggested a high intake of calcium may increase the risk of advanced and metastatic prostate cancer when compared with a lower intake. Study results are mixed about calcium, but moderate amounts of calcium, in food or supplement form, appear to be safe. Studies show that fortified soy and almond milk are healthy substitutes for cows’ milk.
Green tea may have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease and against various forms of cancer, including prostate cancer.
Recent studies show that exercise—both pre- and post-diagnosis—is important to a good treatment outcome. Men who were the fastest walkers prior to diagnosis and surgery had more normally shaped blood vessels in their tumours, compared to those who walked the slowest. These normal-shaped blood vessels can inhibit the spread of cancer and improve the effectiveness of treatments.
Studies show that mindfulness groups may benefit prostate cancer management. Men with advanced prostate cancer who attended a mindfulness-based support group had reduced anxiety and avoidance, and less fear that their cancer would return.
A good night’s sleep may reduce the risk of developing advanced prostate cancer. A study showed that men who slept longer and with less interruption had increased levels of the hormone melatonin in their urine. They were 75 percent less likely to develop advanced prostate cancer than men who had less melatonin.
Don’t procrastinate, men! If you have some of these symptoms or have other health concerns, take charge of your health and visit your health care practitioner.
Studies have shown that these supplements may help prevent or benefit prostate conditions. Ask your health care practitioner whether they could help you.
- saw palmetto berry
- modified citrus pectin
- vitamin D
Did you know?
- Prostate cancer usually grows slowly. It’s often possible to completely remove the tumour or successfully manage it.
- The majority of cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.