November is prostate cancer awareness month which aims to raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health. Movembers vision is to have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health. Ireland ranks 2nd in the EU and 3rd globally for the incident of Prostate cancer. What that means in more basic numbers is that 3, 600 men are told every year in Ireland that they have Prostate cancer. Fortunately, the earlier it is caught, the better it can be treated and today nine in ten men diagnosed will survive.
What is prostate cancer?
The prostate is a small gland about the size of a walnut. It sits at the base of the bladder and in front of the rectum (back passage). The tube that drains urine from the bladder (urethra) runs down through the centre of the prostate gland, letting urine flow out of the body through the penis. The prostate makes a thick white fluid that mixes with sperm to make semen. It also makes a protein called PSA or prostate specific antigen.
The PSA protein turns semen into liquid. Some of this protein can pass into the bloodstream. When doctors check the prostate gland, they often measure levels of this protein in your blood. This is called the PSA test.
If your PSA level is higher than normal, it can sometimes be a sign of prostate cancer. However, it can also be a sign of a less serious condition. The prostate gland can get bigger with age, and may press on the urethra (the tube that drains the bladder); sometimes this causes problems passing urine, otherwise known as prostate urinary symptoms.
The cause of prostate cancer is unknown at present. But there are things called risk factors that can increase your chance of getting the disease.
Risk factors for prostate cancer include:
- Age: Your risk increases as you get older. Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer are aged over 50 years.
- Family history: Men whose brother or father developed prostate cancer at a young age have an increased risk.
- Race: African-American and African-Caribbean men are more at risk than other ethnic groups.
- Diet: Men who eat a lot of red meat and high-fat dairy products and not enough green vegetables may have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
A common complaint for men as they grow older is a difficulty with passing urine. Symptoms may include some or all of the following:
- A slow flow of urine.
- Trouble starting or stopping the flow.
- Passing urine more often, especially at night.
- Pain when passing urine.
- Blood in the urine or semen.
- Feeling of not emptying your bladder fully.
- These symptoms may be caused by prostate cancer or they may be caused by other conditions, such as a harmless (benign) growth of the prostate gland called benign prostatic hyperplasia. It is also important to understand that early prostate cancer may not cause urinary symptoms, or any symptoms at all. It is not safe for you to assume that because you have no prostate urinary symptoms that you do not have prostate cancer. Visit your doctor if you are worried. The Irish Cancer Society website has loads of relevant information and advise cancer.ie.
Reduce your risk
- Get checked out: If you are over 50, you should see your doctor every year for a check-up. If you have a family history of prostate cancer you should have regular check-ups from the age of 40.
- Be a healthy weight: Evidence shows that being overweight or obese can increase the risk of having aggressive prostate cancer or prostate cancer that has spread.
- Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet can help you to keep a healthy weight. Eat fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and pulses. Limit foods high in sugar, salt and fat. Avoid processed meat and limit red meat.
- Be physically active: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day
- Do not smoke and avoid second hand smoke
- Avoid alcohol