Here’s the paradigm: there is so much information out there about prostate cancer—what it is, the sign and symptoms, the causes, screening, treatment—yet, most of the population doesn’t know anything about prostate cancer except for the obvious: it’s a cancer that happens in the prostate. Getting educated about your health and understanding what’s happening inside your body are two very important factors in getting the right help at the right time. At the very least, knowing the basics is the bare minimum.
Having said that, I’ve put together a short tearaway all about prostate cancer.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland located between the bladder and the penis. The prostate gland produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. During ejaculation, the prostate secretes a fluid that squeezes through the urethra and is expelled with sperm (the microscopic reproductive cell) as semen (carries millions of sperms).
What are some causes of prostate cancer?
Although there is no single cause that can be identified as directly linked to prostate cancer, there are some factors that raise the risks of developing the disease. Some of those factors include: overweight (by medical standards as indicated by your BMI), aging (chances increase over 50), hereditary factors (those with a family member who have had the disease or carry the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene – it’s not just associated to breast cancer), previous cancers, lack of exercise, and finally, prostate inflammation (known as prostatitis).
What are some symptoms of cancer?
Warning signs of prostate cancer include, but are not limited to:
- burning or pain urination
- difficulty urinating or straining to urinate
- trouble start or stopping while urinating
- frequent urge to urinate at night
- loss of bladder control
- decreased flow or velocity of urine stream
- blood in urine
- erectile dysfunction
- decrease in semen ejaculated during sex or painful ejaculation
- lower back, hip or pelvic pain
Remember, while some of these symptoms might be common signs of aging, there might be a slight chance that it’s something more. Prostate cancer is just one of the many diseases/conditions that effect the area. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.
Why are prostate cancer symptoms correlated to urination?
If the prostate has a tumour or if it is inflamed, then it is obstructed and will not function as normal. Since the urethra passes through the centre of the prostate from the bladder to the penis letting urine flow out of the body, any obstruction in the prostate can affect urination.
What are other prostate conditions?
There are a few other conditions associated with the prostate, namely prostatitis and enlarged prostate. Prostatitis is the inflammation of the prostate which can sometimes be caused by an infection. Enlarged prostate is also known as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), which basically means the prostate is enlarged; this affects virtually all men over 50 at some point. There are treatments for both of these conditions.
How to know if you have prostate cancer?
Get screened! Speak to your general practitioner or urologist about the Digital Trans Rectal Exam (DRE) and the Prostate Specific Antigen test (PSA). The DRE is a simple test whereby your doctor will insert a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to check for abnormalities. A simple blood test checking your PSA protein levels can also give doctors some much needed information. While neither test is perfect, they can be the first step to screening for abnormalities. From there, additional trans rectal ultrasounds might be recommended or a prostate biopsy. Before any of these tests can be conducted, get the process started by calling your doctor.
What are some treatments?
If your doctor has detected abnormalities and you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s important to discuss the treatment plan. There is so much to say here and I don’t want to gloss over the details as the minutiae can make all the difference to someone going through the treatment process. Just know this: if you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer make sure you find a doctor you like. Someone you trust, someone you feel comfortable with. You need to find the right fit, you’ll be seeing your urologist a lot… so you need to be able to rely on the fact that your doctor cares about you and is there for you every step of the way.
Prostate cancer represents a spectrum of diseases – not all prostate cancers are the same and not all need the same treatment. Don’t put off your next checkup. If you have to remember just a few important things from this blog, remember this:
- Get educated
- Get an appointment
- Get screened
- Get your questions ready
- Get a second opinion
- Mostly, Have the balls to talk about it