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How to Prevent Prostate Cancer

Every man shutters to think of the consequences that come with the cancer that attacks the prostate gland – a small gland resembling a walnut responsible for generating seminal fluid, which actually feeds and delivers sperm. Not only does prostate cancer threaten the lives of men, but also causes great concern in the sexuality department. This is one of the reasons that many men avoid getting testing, as they are embarrassed by the prospect of the disease.

How to Prevent Prostate Cancer

However, it is important to keep in mind that when prostate cancer is detected in its earliest stages, the success of treatment is highly promising – often accompanied by minimal or short-term side effects. Overall, preventing this type of cancer in the first place is significant because undetected prostate cancer can spread beyond the prostate gland, making the control and elimination of the condition much more difficult to accomplish.

What is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer is a disease that forms in the prostate – a gland located in the male reproductive system. The condition surfaces when cells in this region become mutated and start to multiply out of control [1]. As the cancer worsens, it can metastasize (spread) beyond the prostate and affect other parts of the body, especially the bones and lymph nodes. While pain is one of the main symptoms of the disease, other dreaded characteristics strike a man, including urination issues.

The rate of prostate cancer varies depending on what part of the world you reside in. It seems that the disease is most common in the United States and Europe, while lower numbers are found in South and East Asia [2]. According to the American Cancer Society, Asian men are least likely to suffer the disease, while black males face the highest chances for the condition. Many doctors believe that these statistics reflect varying detection rates.

The signs and symptoms of prostate cancer usually do not surface in the early stages of the disease, which is the prime reason why many cases go undetected. If any signals associated with the disease arise, they may include a dull pain in the lower part of the pelvic region; issues with urination; painful urination; weak urine flow; the sensation of a bladder that doesn’t empty; bloody urine; painful ejaculation; weight loss; and loss of appetite. Some patients will also experience pain in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs. Sometimes, persistent bone pain develops. In about 25% of patients with prostate cancer, bladder distention occurs [3].

Prostate cancer is typical amongst men who are over the age of 50 and is exclusively attached to the male reproductive tract. Prostate cancer diagnosis is often revealed through a physical examination or by blood screening tests, like the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test. If a doctor suspects the disease is present, he or she will remove a piece of the prostate in a procedure called a biopsy. The cells are then examined under a microscope. Sometimes, additional tests are conducted, such as an X-ray and bone scan, which are more common when a physician suspects the spreading of the disease.

Causes of Prostate Cancer

Cancer occurs when a collection of abnormal cells progress at a more rapid pace than normal cells. Over time, they refuse to die and start to infiltrate healthy tissues – causing destruction. With prostate cancer, the disease slowly grows and is at first only situated in the prostate gland, which doesn’t cause much concern. However, when the disease is ignored, the cancer starts to find additional tissues to destroy, spreading to other parts of the body. Some forms of the disease are quite aggressive and can travel throughout the body rather quickly. Research suggests that a combination of ethnicity, diet, hormones, heredity, and environment can cause prostate cancer to develop.

Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

An individual who is well informed on the risk factor for prostate cancer can make the appropriate decisions regarding screening for the disease. Typical risk factors include [4]:

a) Age:

The risk of prostate cancer increases the older a man gets. After the age of 50, the chances of developing the disease are much higher.

b) Ethnicity:

It is not currently known why African American men seem more susceptible to developing and succumbing to the disease.

c) Family History:

If you have a close family member (father or brother) who has prostate cancer, your risk is higher than the average man in America.

d) Diet:

That triple cheeseburger and high-fat chocolate cake you have your eye on for dinner and dessert contributes to the weight gain that increases the risk of prostate cancer.

e) Testosterone:

It is believed that high levels of testosterone can lead to cancer of the prostate because of the natural stimulus the gland receives with elevated levels.

The Negative Effects of Prostate Cancer

While the threat of dying is the scariest effect of prostate cancer, a man may encounter many other negative effects associated with the disease. The complications often come from both the disease and suggested treatment. The spread of cancer to surrounding organs and bones can increase the chances of dying from the disease. While the early stages of prostate cancer usually don’t create a great deal of pain, patients can experience intense pain if the disease attacks the bones.

Both the prostate cancer and treatments can cause urinary incontinence, which often takes place after surgery to remove the prostate. This side effect is one of the most embarrassing for a man to handle, which joins a common fear amongst men – erectile dysfunction (or impotence). Surgery, radiation, hormone treatments, or the disease itself can affect a man’s ability to sustain a normal sexual function. When medicinal treatments fail to correct this effect, a penile implant is sometimes surgically inserted to encourage an erection. Emotional and mental blocks often take place – usually in the form of depression.

How to Prevent Prostate Cancer

In the United States, prostate cancer is the most common cancer amongst men that doesn’t attack the skin. While many men will die after a diagnosis of the disease, early detection and adhering to the following prevention methods are a must in order to increase the chances of beating the disease:

a) Diet:

If you avoid a diet that is high in fat, you can reduce your chances of developing prostate cancer. Fruits, vegetables, and whole fibers are great for lessening your risk. Try cooking with foods that are rich in lycopene – an antioxidant that may aid in lowering prostate cancer. This includes raw or cooked tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.

b) Chemoprevention:

This particular approach relies on using a specific natural or man-made drug, vitamin, or other substance to suppress or prevent the growth of cancer. Until further studies are conducted, it is not uncommon to see some doctors prescribe selenium, vitamin D, vitamin E, and lycopene, which have shown promise in preliminary studies.

c) Vitamin E:

Amongst smokers, studies have shown that vitamin E may aid in reducing the risk of prostate cancer.

d) Hormonal Prevention [5]:

There are certain drugs (like finasteride), which decreases the amount of male hormone in the body, which some researchers believe is a promising approach in preventing prostate cancer. Studies suggest that drugs like Proscar and Propecia can prevent or delay the onset of prostate cancer in men aged 55 years or older. If you have been deemed a high risk for the disease, discussing finasteride with your doctor is a possibility.

e) Eat Fish:

In order to prevent the spread of prostate cancer tumor cells to other parts of the body, research has surfaced that suggests that oily fish can aid in avoiding this process [6].

f) Stay Informed:

It is also important to keep abreast on the latest changes in men’s health care and treatments. Becoming familiar with the risk factors for prostate cancer is a must.

g) Prostate Screening:

In order to lessen the deaths associated with prostate cancer, it is important to undergo screening for the disease, especially if relatives have shown a susceptibility to the cancer.

Resources

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostate_cancer
[2] IARC Worldwide Cancer Incidence Statistics—Prostate. JNCI Cancer Spectrum. Oxford University Press (December 19, 2001).
[3] Professional Guide to Signs & Symptoms by Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins (Fifth Edition; pg. 100)
[4] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/prostate-cancer/DS00043/DSECTION=4
[5] http://www.cancer.gov/templates/doc.aspx?viewid=4b87b51f-a4ca-490d-964d-25e5de359538&sectionid=10&version=0
[6] Brown, M.D. et al. Promotion of Prostatic Metastatic Migration Towards Human Bone Marrow Stoma by Omega 6 and its Inhibition by Omega 3 PUFAs. British Journal of Cancer, Vol. 94, March 27, 2006. (pg. 842-53)

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