Prostate Cancer: Risks, Signs and Symptoms Men Must Know
Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that affects only men. It develops when abnormal cells in the prostate multiply and accumulate to form a tumour. A walnut-shaped gland that is located between a man’s bladder and penis, the prostate gland is responsible for preserving the health of the male sperm by nourishing and protecting it.
In 2018 in India, prostate cancer formed a little over 2 percent of all cancer cases in the country, registering 25,696 new cases.
Prostate cancer can be categorised into two types - an aggressive and non-aggressive form. With the non-aggressive form, the tumour either doesn't grow or grows very slowly. Patients will thus require little to no treatment. In the aggressive form, the tumour can grow quickly and invade organs and tissue around the prostate.
Understanding the Risk Factors
Age is a key risk factor for prostate cancer. In India, an individual’s risk of developing the ailment rises steeply once they enter their fifties. The cancer may appear earlier in those with risk factors such as a family history of the disease.
While age and family history are non-modifiable risk factors, there do exist other modifiable risk factors that can contribute to your risk of developing prostate cancer. These include:
- Poor eating habits
- Lack of exercise
A family history of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes (that increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer) may also contribute to higher risk of prostate cancer.
Key Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
If detected early (while still confined to the prostate gland), prostate cancer can be treated. Unfortunately, prostate cancer does not show significant signs until it has advanced. Watch for the following symptoms in order to detect the ailment as early as possible.
- Problems with Urination: The prostate gland is located just beneath the urinary bladder, and surrounds the urethra. A tumour in the prostate gland can thus interfere with urination by pressing against the bladder and the urethra. A problem with urination is often the most prominent sign of prostate cancer. It can present in many ways, that include:
- A frequent and urgent need to urinate
- Frequent night-time urination
- A weak urine stream or one that is slower than normal
- Pain during urination
- Difficulty starting or stopping urination
- Pain and Numbness: When prostate cancer turns aggressive, it can spread to other parts of the body, especially the bones. This can result in pain in the pelvic region, back, and chest. In certain cases, it can spread to the spinal cord and lead to loss of feeling in your legs and bladder.
- Blood in Urine or Semen: Blood in your urine or semen can be a sign of prostate cancer. It is important to see a doctor immediately if you notice this symptom.
- Sexual Problems: Prostate cancer can also cause impotence or erectile dysfunction in males.
Keep in mind that the symptoms mentioned above may also be caused by other ailments that affect the prostate, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis. Having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. Consult your doctor to understand what is causing them.
Reducing your risk of Prostate Cancer
To reduce your risk of prostate cancer you should try eating a healthy diet that consists of tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower and cabbage), green leafy vegetables, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish and nuts), and soya. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly can also reduce your risk.
As with every other ailment, it is important to be aware of your symptoms and get diagnosed on time. Doctors recommend that you get screened for prostate cancer regularly once you hit your fifties. Screening should begin earlier if you identify with the above-mentioned risk factors. Consult your doctor to discuss your risk factors and the frequency of your screenings. Remember, if caught on time, prostate cancer can be treated effectively.