Prostate Cancer: How you can reduce your risk

June is Men’s Health Month – the perfect time for men to focus on self-care, a healthy lifestyle and general wellbeing…

Unfortunately, many men are unaware that they may also be the casualty of a more personal problem: prostate cancer. It’s estimated that 1 in 18 South African men will develop prostate cancer. But how do you beat the statistic?

Get tested

Most men with early prostate cancer won’t have any signs or symptoms. However, in rare cases the tumour could be pressing on and constricting the urethra, causing some urinary discomforts. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer but, if you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s best to speak to a GP about getting tested: 

  • Weak, dribbling, or interrupted flow of urine
  • The urge to urinate frequently especially at night
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Blood in your urine or semen
  • Painful ejaculation
  • A decrease in the amount of fluid ejaculated
  • Difficulty in having an erection
  • Discomfort or pain when sitting
  • Pressure or pain in the rectum
  • Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, pelvis or thighs 

If you’re older than fifty, or have a history of prostate cancer in your family, regular screening is also advised. 

Early detection saves lives

Regular prostate screening is important as it can help detect cancers at an early stage when they are likely to be easier to treat. These screenings can include one or both of the following procedures:

  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. A blood sample is taken and tested for PSA, a substance that’s naturally produced by your prostate gland. It’s normal for a small amount of PSA to be in your bloodstream but, if a higher than normal level is found, it may indicate prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement or cancer.
  • Digital rectal exam (DRE). The doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to examine your prostate. If your doctor finds any abnormalities in the texture, shape or size of the gland, you may need further tests.

If your PSA and/or your DRE results suggest that you might have prostate cancer, your doctor will order more tests, such as a biopsy, MRI or an ultrasound.

A greater range of treatments

If your prostate cancer is of an early stage or growing slowly a doctor may recommend active surveillance or watchful-waiting. Depending on the stage and severity of your cancer your doctor could also recommend a variety of these treatments:

  • Surgery: Surgery by a urologist or urologic oncologist involves the removal of the prostate and some surrounding healthy tissue during an operation.
  • Radio therapy: A radiation oncologist will use high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells in a number of treatments over a set period of time. The process is external and works the same as an X-ray machine.
  • Brachytherapy: This is a form of internal radiation therapy where radioactive sources are inserted directly into the prostate.
  • Chemotherapy: A medical oncologist will use a certain medication to destroy cancer cells, usually by ending their ability to grow and divide.

It’s administered via a drip inserted into your arm.

  • Hormonal therapy: Hormone therapy stops your body from producing the male hormone testosterone. Prostate cancer cells rely on testosterone to help them grow. Cutting off the supply of testosterone may cause cancer cells to die or to grow more slowly.

Choose a healthy lifestyle

Some risks, such as age, family history or race can’t be helped. However, regular exercise, maintaining a balanced weight and a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of getting prostate cancer. 

Get more information on prostate cancer or on how to book a prostate exam through Bestmed:

Call: 012 472 6254 or Email: diseasemanagement@bestmed.co.za

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