Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in the world, affecting 1 in 6 men and is universally recognised as the biggest killer of men from the age of 45 upward and something that has touched my life as well. There are several major factors that influence risk, some of them unfortunately cannot be changed and age, race, family history and genetics all play a significant role. It has also been determined that location can be a factor with men in China being less likely to suffer from the disease than those in America. One thing is for sure, regular annual screening is a must.
Should I Be Screened?
The question of screening is a personal and complex one. It’s important for each man to talk with his doctor about whether prostate cancer screening is right for him. When to start screening is generally based on individual risk, with age 40 being a reasonable time to start screening for those at highest risk (genetic predispositions or strong family histories of prostate cancer at a young age).
Not everyone experiences symptoms of prostate cancer. Many times, signs of prostate cancer are first detected by a doctor during a routine check-up.Some men, however, will experience changes in urinary or sexual function that might indicate the presence of prostate cancer. These symptoms include:
- A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty in having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
- Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs
You should consult with your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms above. Because these symptoms can also indicate the presence of other diseases or disorders, such as BPH or prostatitis, men will usually undergo a thorough examination to determine the underlying cause.
The ultimate goal of prostate cancer prevention strategies is to prevent men from developing the disease. Unfortunately, despite significant progress in research over the past 16 years, this goal has not yet been achieved. Both genetic and environmental risk factors for prostate cancer have been identified, but the evidence is not yet strong enough to be helpful to men currently at risk of developing prostate cancer. There are, however, some things you can do that will make a difference.
- Eat fewer calories or exercise more so that you maintain a healthy weight.
- Try to keep the amount of fat you get from red meat and dairy products to a minimum.
- Watch your calcium intake. Do not take supplemental doses far above the recommended daily allowance. Some calcium is OK, but avoid taking more than 1,500 mg of calcium a day.
- Eat more fish – evidence from several studies suggest that fish can help protect against prostate cancer because they have “good fat” particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid trans fatty acids (found in margarine).
- Try to incorporate cooked tomatoes that are cooked with olive oil, which has also been shown to be beneficial, and cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower) into many of your weekly meals. Soy and green tea are also potential dietary components that may be helpful.
- Avoid smoking for many reasons. Alcohol in moderation, if at all.
- Seek medical treatment for stress, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and depression. Treating these conditions may save your life and will improve your survivorship with prostate cancer
- What about supplements? Avoid over-supplementation with megavitamins. Too many vitamins, especially folate, may “fuel the cancer”, and while a multivitamin is not likely to be harmful, if you follow a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils you likely do not even need a multivitamin.
- Relax and enjoy life. Reducing stress in the workplace and home will improve your survivorship and lead to a longer, happier life.
- Finally, eating all the broccoli in the world, though it may make a difference in the long run, does not take away your risk of having prostate cancer right now. If you are age 50 or over, if you are age 40 or over and have a family history of prostate cancer, you need more than a good diet can guarantee. You should consider a yearly rectal examination and PSA test.