This week, we are taking a look at prostate cancer, a cancer that occurs in the prostate; a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transport sperm.
There has been a lot of awareness campaign in Tanzania recently and rightly so because prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men.
Usually, prostate cancer grows slowly and is initially confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.
You need to be alert if you start experiencing any of common symptoms of prostate cancer;
- frequent urges to urinate, even during the night
- difficulties in commencing and maintaining urination,
- blood in the urine, and pain during urination and ejaculation,
- difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection.
If the cancer is advanced you will start having pain in the bones, often in the spine, upper leg bone, pelvis, or ribs, you will also be more prone to fractures. If it spreads to the spine and compresses the spinal cord you will start losing strength in your legs, you will also experience urine, and faecal incontinence.
It is not clear what causes prostate cancer but it happens when cells in your prostate become abnormal.
Things that increase the risk of prostate cancer are old age; black-race men are more likely to develop it than other races and it tends to be more aggressive in them. It also runs in the family. If there is a history of breast cancer in your family, your risk of prostate cancer can be higher. Men who are obese are more likely to have advanced cancer that is more difficult to treat.
As one of the complications, this cancer can spread to other organs such as your bladder, reaching your bones as it travels through your bloodstream. Once prostate cancer has spread to other areas of the body, it may still respond to treatment and controlled. But it is unlikely to be cured.
Another complication is incontinence; this appears because both prostate cancer and its treatment can cause urinary incontinence. Erectile dysfunction can also result from prostate cancer and its treatment such as surgery, radiation or hormone treatments.
The important part is prevention. You don’t have to become a prostate cancer patient to do the following;
- First of all, you need to avoid high-fat foods and instead focus on choosing a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain.
- Choose foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals so that you can maintain healthy levels of vitamins in your body.
- Try to exercise most days of the week to improve your overall health, maintain your weight and improve your mood. There is evidence that men who do not practice exercises have higher PSA levels (a protein produced by prostate gland), while men who exercise may have a lower risk of prostate cancer.
- Try to maintain a healthy weight; if your current weight is of standard measure, work to maintain it by exercising most days of the week. If you need to lose weight, exercise more and reduce the number of calories you eat each day.
- If you are concerned about your risk of developing prostate cancer, it is good to talk to a specialist doctor. Regular testing is crucial as cancer needs to be diagnosed before it spreads.
Remember that there are usually no symptoms during early stages of prostate cancer.