Everything You Should Know About Prostate Cancer, And How To Maintain A Healthy Prostate - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Everything You Should Know About Prostate Cancer, And How To Maintain A Healthy Prostate

And when it's time to get checked.
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As part of #MensHealthWeek, we’re highlighting some of the most common yet unspoken health issues that affect men around the world. Read more from our health pillar here.

In figures released by the Australian Government, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer found amongst Aussie men, with more than 16,000 men diagnosed each year, and 3,152 deaths.

Whilst extremely alarming and prevalent, the good news is, as far as cancers go, it’s pretty curable if treated and identified early. More than 95 percent of men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer survive for five years or more. But the percentage drops when we’re talking about advanced cases. Once the cancer has spread to distant organs, the five-year survival rate is just 30 percent, SEER data shows.

Prostate cancer is notoriously symptom-free in its early stages, which is one benefits of the screening test, says Dr. James Wysock, urologic oncologist and assistant professor of urology at NYU Langone Health.

“One of the most well-known ways to have your prostate checked is by having your doctor perform a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE),” advises Swisse Science Expert, João Paulino de Carvalho.  “[During the exam] they insert a gloved finger into the rectum to get a feel of the size and shape of your prostate.”

Despite the recommendations of experts, screening has only recently been deemed to be successful for prostate cancer. A study just published in September seems to support the test for older guys. In fact, the average man should consider PSA screenings for prostate cancer beginning at age 56 and continuing to 69—and earlier if you have a family history of prostate cancer, Men’s Health urology advisor Larry Lipshultz, M.D., recommends.

“One of the most well-known ways to have your prostate checked is by having your doctor perform a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE),” advises João Paulino de Carvalho, Swisse Science Expert. “[During the exam] they insert a gloved finger into the rectum to get a feel of the size and shape of your prostate.”

So what can be done to prevent the onset of prostate cancer and minimise the risk of development. Well, a few of the prevention methods are actually quite fun and enjoyable: drink coffee, orgasm, and sit down. Yep, that’s right!

3 ways to look after your prostate

1. Eat and drink right

“For prostate health, consider including in your diet more plant-derived fats, Omega-3 fatty acids, tomatoes and berries, and less red meat, dairy products and alcohol,” suggests Paulino de Carvalho. Additionally, a new study says that drinking three espressos per day can cut your risk of developing prostate cancer in half. 

The study was conducted by the Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed in Italy, home of the espresso, monitoring 7,000 men in the Molise region for four years, taking note of their coffee consumption. According to the researchers there was a 53 percent lower risk in those who drank at least three cups per day.

2. Get Busy

In further cancer busting research, a recent study found that ejaculating frequently can help reduce the risk of prostate cancer by up to 22 per cent.

After surveying 32,000 men between 1992 and 2010, researchers found that men who ejaculated more than 21 times per month throughout their 20s, were 19 per cent less likely to develop prostate cancer.

Older than 40? Even better. Frequent ejaculation will reduce your risk by 22 per cent. And the results are confirmed by local scientist as well. A similar study in Australia found that men who averaged 4.6-7 ejaculations a week were 36 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 70.

3. Take a seat

According to research from the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, sitting down to pee allows for ‘a more favourable urodynamic profile’ [translation: the flow is stronger] which helps ward off prostate problems.

The study goes on to suggest that when we stand, we activate muscles around our lower abdomen, pelvis and spine that actually prevent proper urination, and damage our prostate. Good enough reason to take a load off when visiting the men’s room.

3 signs of prostate cancer you should never ignore

1. Urinary Changes

The prostate gland is located underneath your bladder and urethra. When you urinate, the bladder pushes its contents into the prostate—which has a tubular opening to let the urine pass through—and then into the urethra.

As you age, your prostate grows—which can be known as benign prostate hyperplasia, or an enlarged prostate—and that tends to cause urination changes. But a tumor growing in your prostate can cause similar problems peeing, too.

These urinary problems include a slow urinary stream, increased frequency, more urgency, and a sensation of incomplete bladder emptying, says Dr. Wysock. That may mean you’ll feel the urge to pee right after you just went.

2. Blood in your semen or urine

Seeing blood when you pee or blood when you ejaculate is not normal, and should get checked out whenever it happens, according to Dr. Wysock. It may be a symptom of prostate cancer, or come from another cause like infection or inflammation. Either way, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor.

Keep in mind that having zero ejaculation, though, is rarely a sign of prostate cancer, he adds. That’s more likely to be a problem with blocked ejaculation ducts, he says, or it may be a side effect of taking medication for benign prostastic hyperplasia, a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.

3. Lower back pain and stiffness

If prostate cancer has spread outside of the gland, it tends to affect nearby tissues and bones, including the lower back and spine. It can press on the spinal nerves, causing pain or numbness, and cause tightness in the muscles, depending on where the cancer cells are located. Dr. Wysock emphasizes that diagnosing prostate cancer as a result of low back pain is very rare, although it is possible.

How can you get your prostate checked?

What:

A rectal examination involves a doctor inserting a finger (usually the index finger) into anus and rectum to feel for any changes or causes for concern in the lower part of the bowel (including the prostate) where the colon ends.

When:

A rectal exam might be needed for any symptom or change that involves pain, bleeding or a change in our number twos. Pain on going to the toilet, blood in the toilet bowl, constipation or a significant change in bowel habit are some examples that might signal the need to get things checked out. 

There was a time when a rectal exam was standard practice for checking for prostate cancer, but routine checks for this aren’t generally recommended for most men. Any symptoms that might signal prostate troubles (change in flow of peeing, blood, pain) or strong family history might still mean this is needed however but it’s best to discuss testing pros/cons with your doc.

Survival Tips:

There’s no getting around the fact that this is a less than comfortable exam for most men – and your doctor knows this. There’s zero need to shy away from it or feel embarrassed, however.  

Chose a doctor you’re comfortable with or know well, and let them know if you’re feeling nervous or understandably worried.  

Your doc will use plenty of gel on the finger to make things as quick and painless as realistically possible, and overall it’ll be over before you know it without any major discomfort for most.

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