September marks Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Prostate cancer is cancer of the gland inside the groin between the penis and testes. With awareness, regular screenings, and healthy lifestyle habits, prostate cancer can be prevented.
We appreciate the men in our communities, families, and workplaces, which is why it’s important to be aware of prostate cancer.
By knowing the risks, symptoms, and preventative measures for prostate cancer, we can spread awareness so men can take action against cancer.
What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the development of cancerous tumors in the prostate. The prostate is a soft gland found in men (and assigned-male-at-birth people) between the penis and the testes. It is located deep within the groin and is about the size of a walnut.
The prostate is a necessary part of the reproductive system because it produces seminal fluid which mixes with sperm to allow them to travel. It also maintains masculine characteristics and sexual function with male hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, about 1 in 9 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetimes, and the risk increases significantly for African American men. Over 160,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.
These numbers are intimidating, but prostate cancer can be successfully treated with early detection. Learn more about prostate cancer prevention with screenings and healthy lifestyle habits.
Screenings for Prostate Cancer
Yearly screenings are necessary for preventing prostate cancer or catching it in its early stages. Doctors recommend receiving screenings at age 50, and men at higher risk for prostate cancer, such as African American men or men with a family history of prostate cancer, should start screening earlier.
Digital Rectum Exam
Prostate cancer tends to start at the back of the prostate. Because of this, a digital rectum exam is an important screening to prevent the development of prostate cancer. The doctor will examine the prostate with a gloved finger through the rectum and note if there are any abnormalities.
Another test to screen for prostate cancer is a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate, and the test measures the levels of PSA in the blood.
Men with prostate cancer have higher levels of PSA in their blood. This test is a way to catch prostate cancer in asymptomatic men, so it is usually performed alongside the digital rectum exam.
Potential Risks of Screenings
In many cases, prostate cancer is slow-growing. The National Cancer Institute warns that PSA tests can detect tumors that are not life-threatening and may lead to an overdiagnosis and overtreatment.
Overtreatment for prostate cancer exposes men to the harmful effects of radiation and surgery, as well as causes stress that will impact men’s health in their day-to-day lives.
Because of this, it is important to discuss with your doctor or urologist the status of prostate cancer and the options and alternatives for treatment.
It is also important to note that there are two conditions that have symptoms similar to prostate cancer:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is the enlargement of the prostate, is non-cancerous, and can be treated with medication.
- Prostatitis is the inflammation of the prostate from an infection and can be treated with antibiotics or medication.
Know the difference between prostate cancer, BPH, and prostatitis to prevent unnecessary alarm and take appropriate action.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
There are risk factors that could lead to the development of prostate cancer, such as:
- Age: Men older than 50 are at a higher risk for prostate cancer than younger men.
- Ethnicity: African American men are more at risk.
- Poor diet: Men who eat high amounts of animal fat and dairy products are more at risk for prostate cancer.
- Weight: People with a higher body mass are slightly more at risk for prostate cancer. (However, weight is independent of health. People with larger bodies can practice healthy lifestyle habits without weight loss and still reap the benefits of lowering their risk of cancer.)
- Veterans: Veterans are more at risk for prostate cancer, especially those who came into contact with defoliants like Agent Orange.
- Exposure to pesticides: Farmers and workers exposed to pesticides have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Sedentary living: Men who get little to no physical activity are more at risk for prostate cancer.
Now that you know the risk factors, you can be empowered to catch prostate cancer early on by knowing the symptoms.
Typical symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Difficulty starting urination or having a weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Pain during urination or ejaculation
- Consistent pain in the back, hips, and/or pelvis
- Blood in the urine or semen
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away to determine if it is due to prostate cancer or some other cause.
Prevention through healthy lifestyle habits
Prostate cancer cannot be completely prevented with lifestyle habits. However, the Prostate Cancer Foundation states that 30% of cancer can be prevented by participating in healthy habits, so it is worth the effort! Plus, healthy lifestyle habits will help prevent other cancers and diseases.
Try these healthy habits to fight against prostate cancer:
- Move your body daily. Try to exercise for half an hour every day by doing something you enjoy: biking, walking, swimming, or anything else that motivates you to move. It is recommended to combine aerobic activities with strength-building exercises throughout the week for a well-rounded routine.
- Eat less animal meat and dairy. We know that meat and dairy have a negative effect on the prostate, so protect your health by cutting down (or out!) meat and dairy. You can achieve this by trying vegetarian protein sources, such as chickpeas and lentils, or going without meat three days a week.
- Eat fish. Fish have omega-3 fatty acids, which is a healthy fat that is beneficial for the prostate.
- Avoid smoking. Quit smoking cigarettes and cigars if you haven’t already.
- Drink in moderation (if at all). Alcohol consumption negatively affects the prostate, so cut down on your drinking or cut it out completely.
- Reduce stress. Too much stress is detrimental to your health, so practice stress-relieving techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and journaling to manage your stress. Try not to take on too much work or too many social events than you can handle.
By working towards a healthy lifestyle, you can lower your risk for prostate cancer and live a longer, happier life.
Prostate cancer and COVID-19
This year, Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is a little different from previous years. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way we work, socialize, and interact with others in public spaces.
People receiving chemotherapy treatment for prostate cancer are at risk for COVID-19 related complications. Be sure to practice all the recommendations for avoiding contacting coronavirus, such as wearing a mask in public, washing your hands frequently, maintaining social distancing, and avoiding touching your face.
The virus is especially dangerous for those who are already immunocompromised, so it is most important to take care of yourself during these times.
Receive preventative and treatment care at Premier Medical Group.
Premier Medical Group specializes in urological cancers. We provide screenings for prostate cancer and treatment for a prostate cancer diagnosis. Our facility offers innovative urological treatments for our patients and consistently performs high-level research to develop safer and more effective treatment options. Contact Premier Medical Group today to schedule your next prostate screening.