Prostate cancer is a common one. Fortunately, recovery is possible when it is detected early. Learn more about prostate cancer so you can better recognize it.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland about the size of a walnut. It is located under the bladder and surrounds the urinary tract. For men, the prostate is essential for the production of sperm and consequently for reproduction. In Canada, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. It generally evolves slowly and can often be successfully cured or treated.
It’s never easy to talk about sensitive issues such as cancer. Yet, being aware of this reality may prevent certain problems. Some cancers, such as prostate cancer, have a better prognosis when they are detected and treated early on. Here is some information on the subject that will allow you to make the right choices for your health.
Doctor, I have trouble passing urine!
Some signs and symptoms may suggest prostate cancer. Here are the ones to watch out for:
- the need to urinate more often
- urgent need to urinate
- difficulty starting urine flow
- poor or interrupted stream of urine
- sensation of not having emptied the bladder entirely
- pain or burning sensation when passing urine
- traces of blood in the urine or sperm
- pain during ejaculation, and
- back pain
Having these signs and symptoms is not necessarily indicative of prostate cancer, since other diseases may include similar manifestations. If you notice some of these or any other unusual symptoms, speak to your doctor who will be able to make a complete health assessment.
To be sure…
As mentioned earlier, early detection of prostate cancer saves lives. If symptoms are present, appropriate tests should be done to confirm or exclude such a diagnosis.
The Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test is the test of choice for early detection of prostate cancer. PSA is a specific protein produced by prostate cells. It is normal to find a certain amount of PSA in the blood, which increases somewhat with age. However, too much PSA in the blood can suggest the presence of cancer or other prostate-related disorders. This is why doctors sometimes do blood tests to measure levels.
The PSA test is not only used to detect prostate disease, but also to monitor the response to treatment or the progression or recurrence of previously diagnosed cancer. A doctor may decide to have the test done if there is a suspicion of a prostate disorder, based on the observation of signs or symptoms or if the man has risk factors for such disorders.
Speak to your doctor about whether or not you should pass this test based on your age, health and risk factors. This test can tell you that you have prostate cancer before the onset of signs or symptoms. Risk factors include the following:
- being over the age of 50
- having a family history of prostate cancer
- being a black man
- being overweight
Another useful test to screen for prostate cancer is the digital rectal exam. This somewhat unpleasant procedure involves inserting a finger into the rectum with a lubricated glove to palpate the prostate to detect a change in its size, shape or texture.
If the doctor suspects cancer, they may want to pass other complementary tests, such as a transrectal ultrasonography or a biopsy of the prostate. Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, the doctor may decide to only observe the cancer’s evolution instead of beginning treatment.
This decision may seem surprising, but this type of cancer generally develops slowly and a regular follow-up is made to administer treatment at the appropriate time if this becomes necessary. For other patients, drug therapies will be initiated, indicating that prostate cancer treatment may vary significantly.
The virtues of prevention
The presence of prostate cancer in family members increases your risk of developing it as well, but this fact is beyond your control. However, certain lifestyle changes may help to keep this disease at bay. In this regard, try to avoid:
- a diet that is rich in fat
- excessive amounts of red meat or processed meat
- excessive quantities of dairy products
- cigarette smoke, and
- exposure to pesticides
The best way to limit the consequences of prostate cancer on your life is early detection. See your doctor regularly, have a discussion about screening measures, and watch for signs or symptoms suggesting its presence.