June is Men's Health Month, so we're sharing some stats about the cancer that affects 1 in 6 men. A man is 35% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than a woman to be diagnosed with breast cancer - that's a big deal.
These numbers from the Prostate Cancer Foundation illustrate a very real picture of prostate cancer, but the cure rate is very high. Learn about risk reduction and preventative screenings to protect yourself (or, ladies, share this with your man).
Signs and Symptoms
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men, but it tends to grow slowly. It begins in the prostate gland where it may not cause any harm. If caught in the earliest stages, prostate cancer may show no signs or symptoms. If the cancer has grown, some men may experience the following symptoms:
- Urination problems (difficulty urinating or decreased force when urinating)
- Presence of blood (in urine or semen)
- Leg swelling
- Pelvic area discomfort
- Bone pain
- Pain or stiffness in the lower back or upper thighs
If detected while still in the prostate gland, prostate cancer can typically be treated. Like any cancer, however, aggressive types can spread quickly. The best way to protect yourself is to have preventative screenings.
When to See a Doctor
If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms that just don't seem right, make an appointment with your doctor. Even if those signs pan out to be nothing, you can talk about preventative screenings options, a conversation all men in their 50s should have.
To prepare for your appointment, make a list of the symptoms you've been noticing. Try to note the frequency of the symptoms and how long they've been happening. Take a list of your current medications to be sure your file is up to date.
While the jury's still out on whether or not prostate cancer screening is beneficial, it is certainly an option. It is best to talk with your doctor so you can decide together if it's right for you. If you have one or more of the above risk factors and/or have accompanying symptoms, pay a visit to your doc.
If you do decide to have a screening, two of the common tests are a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a prostate-specific antigen test (PSA). During a DRE, your doctor examines your prostate. Any abnormalities in the shape, size or texture of the prostate may prompt more tests. During a PSA, a blood test looks for a substance naturally produced by the prostate. If a high level is found, it could be a sign that there is inflammation, infection or cancer.
Reduce Your Risk
There are few factors you can change to reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer. The biggest is weight. Obese men who are diagnosed may be more likely to have cancer that is more advanced - in turn, being more difficult to treat.
Shedding some weight is a good start to reducing your risk, so fill up on fruits and veggies, lean meats and whole grains if your diet needs a makeover. Some men turn to supplements to lower their risk, but research doesn't support the claims. It is best to get the vitamins and minerals you need through your diet, so avoid high-fat foods and focus on produce and fiber.
It's important to stay active, too. If you feel that exercise may be too intense at first, commit to taking a 30 minute walk most days of the week. From there, you can pick up the pace to a jog or run, or find an activity you enjoy. Playing basketball with friends, kayaking or hiking are all ways to get your heart pumping. Joining a gym isn't the only way to get some exercise!
Factors that are uncontrollable include old age, family history and race. Prostate cancer is most common in men 65 and older, and you may be at an increased risk if men in your family have had prostate cancer. Black men have a greater risk and also tend to have more aggressive types of prostate cancer.
Be your own advocate against prostate cancer by talking with your doctor about any new symptoms or the possibility of preventative screenings. Take this knowledge to heart or share it with the man in your life during Men's Health Month.