Prostate cancer refers to cancer that develops in the glandular cells of the prostate. The prostate is a walnut sized gland located in front of the rectum underneath the bladder. The prostate is only found in men. It contains gland cells that produce fluid which protects and nourishes sperm cells in semen. There are several cell types in the prostate, however, over 99 percent of Prostate Cancers develop from the glandular cells in the prostate.
What are the risk factors for developing prostate cancer?
- Age – prostate cancer is found mainly in men over 65 years of age.
- Family history – men with a family history of the disease are at greater risk of developing it.
- Race – prostate cancer is more common in men of Afro-Caribbean or African descent and less common in men of Asian descent.
- Diet – a diet high in animal fat may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Signs and symptoms to look out for:
Early prostate cancer may produce no symptoms. As the disease progresses, the following symptoms may be present:
- Frequent need to urinate, especially at night.
- Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine.
- Inability to urinate.
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine.
- Painful or burning urination.
- Difficulty in having an erection.
- Painful ejaculation.
- Blood in the urine or semen.
If you suffer from these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that you have prostate cancer. In many men the prostate gets larger with age due to a non-cancerous condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Always consult your Doctor for diagnosis and advice. In no way is this information intended to replace the advice of a medical practitioner.
Screening for prostate cancer:
Prostate cancer screening tests include:
- Digital rectal exam (a Doctor examines the prostate via the rectum to check for hard or lumpy areas).
- Blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA). This involves taking a blood sample and measuring the levels of PSA in the blood. These levels may rise if the person has prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia or infection in the prostate. The American Cancer Society recommends that Doctors offer men over 50 years of age the option to be tested for early detection of prostate cancer. The Society also recommends that men at high risk (family history/race) should begin testing at age 45.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
If you have symptoms or test results that suggest you may have prostate cancer, your Doctor will recommend examinations and tests. Your Doctor may order further procedures such as a trans rectal ultrasonography (where the probe is inserted into the rectum to produce pictures of the prostate area) or a cystoscopy (a procedure which involves looking into the urethra and bladder through a thin, lighted tube). If these tests suggest prostate cancer, a biopsy will be performed, where a sample of tissue is taken from the prostate to be analysed.
If prostate cancer is diagnosed, treatment will depend on the stage of the disease (e.g. is the cancer contained within the prostate or has it spread to other parts of the body) and the grade of the tumour (how abnormal the cells look and how likely they are to grow or spread). Treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy and/or hormonal therapy or “watchful waiting”, where the man’s health is closely monitored and treatment is begun if symptoms occur or worsen.
The European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) is a long-term, large-scale study of the influence of diet on cancer in humans. The EPIC results recommend that people lose weight if overweight or obese and have a diet that is:
- High in fruits and vegetables.
- High in fibre.
- Low in red or processed meats.
- Low in saturated fat.
Evidence suggests that natural substances found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage may lower overall cancer risk. Research also shows that eating one or more portions of broccoli every week has the potential to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and the risk of localised cancer becoming more aggressive.
Always consult your Doctor before taking any dietary supplements for advice on any possible side effects or drug interactions. This is particularly important during cancer therapy, as many chemotherapy drugs act by blocking the effects of certain vitamins.
- Zinc supplements may help to fight prostate cancer.
- Phytosterols (plant sterols) may offer protection from prostate cancer. It is believed they help boost the immune system and interfere with the growth of cancerous tumours.
- Selenium, taken as a nutritional supplement, may have a protective effect against prostate cancer.
Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
- Follow the Diet Hints.
- Try to stop smoking. Ask your Pharmacist for information and products to help you quit smoking.
- Try to minimise stress.
- Exercise regularly. Swimming and walking are two good examples.
Visit our primary health clinics, where we all work towards keeping you well this spring.