Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate, a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Usually, prostate cancer grows slowly and is initially confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm in the initial phase. However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal intervention, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.
Prostate cancer that’s detected early, when it’s still confined to the prostate gland, has a better chance of successful treatment.
Prostate cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages.
Prostate cancer that’s more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:
ü Trouble urinating
ü Decreased force in the stream of urine
ü Blood in semen
ü Discomfort in the pelvic area
ü Back pain
ü Erectile dysfunction
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide accounting for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018. On the list of the most common cancers, Cancer of the prostate comes fourth after cancer of the lung, breast and colorectal cancers. Its followed by cancer of the skin and stomach in fifth and sixth positions respectively.
In Kenya, surveillance is not very accurate but in 2015, the Ministry of Health in Kenya issued guidelines, in which prostate cancer was identified as the most common cancer afflicting men, with at least 1,000 new cases reported each year, while deaths stand at around 850 annually. The numbers could be higher since many often go unreported.
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.
Debate continues regarding the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening. Discuss prostate cancer screening with your doctor. Together, you can decide what’s best for you.
It’s not clear what causes prostate cancer.
Doctors know that prostate cancer begins when some cells in your prostate become abnormal. Mutations in the abnormal cells’ DNA cause the cells to grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells do. The abnormal cells continue living when other cells would die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor that can grow to invade nearby tissue. Some abnormal cells can also break off and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
Factors that can increase your risk of prostate cancer include:
Age. Your risk of prostate cancer increases as you age.
Race. For reasons not yet determined, black men carry a greater risk of prostate cancer than do men of other races. In black men, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced.
Family history. If men in your family have had prostate cancer, your risk may be increased. Also, if you have a family history of genes that increase the risk of breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2) or a very strong family history of breast cancer, your risk of prostate cancer may be higher.
Obesity. Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer may be more likely to have advanced disease that’s more difficult to treat.
Complications of prostate cancer and its treatments include:
Cancer that spreads (metastasizes). Prostate cancer can spread to nearby organs, such as your bladder, or travel through your bloodstream or lymphatic system to your bones or other organs. Prostate cancer that spreads to the bones can cause pain and broken bones. Once prostate cancer has spread to other areas of the body, it may still respond to treatment and may be controlled, but it’s unlikely to be cured.
Incontinence. Both prostate cancer and its treatment can cause urinary incontinence. Treatment for incontinence depends on the type you have, how severe it is and the likelihood it will improve over time. Treatment options may include medications, catheters, and surgery.
Erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction can result from prostate cancer or its treatment, including surgery, radiation or hormone treatments. Medications, surgery and devices are the main options in achieving an erection to counter the dysfunction.
You can reduce your risk of prostate cancer if you:
ü Choose a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables and grains. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and nutrients that can contribute to your health.
ü Whether you can prevent prostate cancer through diet has yet to be conclusively proved. But a healthy diet can improve your overall health.
ü Choose healthy foods over supplements. No studies have shown that supplements play a role in reducing your risk of prostate cancer. Instead, choose foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals so that you can maintain healthy levels of vitamins in your body.
ü Exercise most days of the week. Exercise improves your overall health, helps you maintain your weight and improves your mood. There is some evidence that men who don’t exercise have higher PSA levels, while men who exercise may have a lower risk of prostate cancer.
ü Talk to your doctor about the increased risk of prostate cancer
Jemimah Mbugua- Head of Care & Medical Advisory, Resolution Insurance