I am often asked what can patients do to prevent prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, and is the second leading cause of death from all cancers in the U.S. following lunch cancer, which is the most deadly cancer in men. In fact, half of men in their 80s have prostate cancer. While this may sound scary, the good news is that prostate cancer is usually slow growing and if caught early on, can be treated and stopped.
The truth is that prostate cancer is regarded as one of the most curable cancers, if caught early.
Signs of prostate cancer
Let me start that from the onset, early prostate cancer may have NO signs and NO symptoms.
If prostate cancer is advanced or spread beyond the prostate gland the signs may include:
- Trouble urinating
- Decreased force in the stream of urine
- Blood in your urine or semen
- Pain in your lower back, hips or thighs
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Erectile dysfunction
- Elevated prostate-specific antigen test (PSA)
You may assume your urinary symptoms are a sign of a bladder infection or a kidney problem, but get it checked out. This can be especially true for younger men. While most cases of prostate cancer occur in men over 50, if you have difficulty starting a urine stream, have weak flow or have to go frequently, especially at night, get it checked out. It may not always be prostate cancer but does require an evaluation by a urologist.
Trouble urinating might simply indicate that your prostate is enlarged due to benign or non-cancerous causes. Having an enlarged prostate is not a sign of prostate cancer nor does it increase your risk of getting it.
Annual prostate screenings
Prostate cancer screenings work, especially for men ages 50 to 69. In recent years the formal recommendation for prostate screenings has changed. The U.S. Preventative Task Force on Health now says annual prostate screenings are not advised across the board, and are rather an item to be discussed and decided between a patient and doctor on an individual basis. If you have a family history, it’s a good idea to get checked regularly.
During a prostate screening, the doctor will test your PSA level, which is a simple blood test which measures a protein produced by your prostate gland. The higher the number, the greater chance you might have prostate cancer. (You should know that not all elevated PSAs point to cancer — some are caused by infections and even an enlarged prostate gland can elevate the PSA test.) Then, a physical exam is completed.
Preventing prostate cancer
Some risk factors for prostate cancer can’t be prevented, such as genetics and race. If you have a relative such as father, uncle, brother, or cousin with prostate cancer, then your risk is higher for prostate cancer. Also, African-American men have a higher incidence of prostate cancer and need to be screened at an earlier age.
While one in six men are diagnosed with prostate cancer at some time in their lives, that number increases to one in three for African Americans. Also, if you have a first degree relative who had prostate cancer — a dad or brother — your risk is doubled or tripled.
There are things you can do to prevent prostate cancer and cancer in general. Did you know that exercising three hours a week has been shown to greatly reduce your cancer risk overall? Eating well has similar results.
Live a healthy lifestyle: eat well, watch your weight and exercise frequently. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, you’ll decrease your risk for prostate cancer and other cancers as well.
Bottom Line: Prostate cancer is a common medical condition. Leading a health lifestyle with frequent exercise and a good diet can decrease your risk of developing prostate cancer.