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Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer in men, behind only skin cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be over 220,000 new cases of prostate cancer in the United States. During National Men’s Health Month, June, the goal is to raise awareness of men’s health issues. If you haven’t already talked to your doctor about your prostate or any other issues that may be affecting your health now is the time to do so. If you would like to know more about heart disease, please check out last week’s post!
The aim of this post is to explain what the prostate is, the three major problems effecting the prostate and possible prevention techniques. Let’s begin!
The prostate is a gland that is found only in men. It is located beneath the bladder and in front of the rectum. The urethra—the narrow tube that runs carries both urine and semen out of the body—runs directly through the prostate. The prostate changes with age primarily due to male hormones The main function of the prostate is to make fluid for sperm cells.
Three Major Problems
As a man ages, the prostate can become a problem in three major ways: enlargement, infection, and cancer. Lets take a look at the problems involving the prostate.
Usually starting around 40 years of age the prostate starts to enlarge to the size of an apricot and by age 60 can enlarge to the size of a lemon. The enlarging of the gland is known as BPH, or benign prostatic hyperplasia. This means non cancerous abnormal cell growth and symptoms include:
- Trouble starting a urine stream
- Passing urine often, especially at night
- Feeling that the bladder has not fully emptied
- A strong or sudden urge to pass urine
- Weak or slow urine stream
- Stopping and starting again several times while passing urine
Drugs or surgery may relieve its symptoms. If the symptoms are not bothersome, the watchful waiting approach might be used before treatment. This includes getting annual checkups and being mindful of the symptoms so they can be treated before getting worse.
Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate). Some symptoms of prostatitis include:
- Trouble passing urine
- Burning when urinating
- Strong and frequent urges to pass urine even if you don’t really have to
- Pain in the rectum, belly or groin
Most cases can be treated with a course of antibiotics over a 7-14 day period.
The third way the prostate is affected is by cancer. By the age of 80, half of all American men will have some cancer cells in their prostate. It is a slow growing cancer with sometimes no symptoms. Symptoms can include:
- Trouble passing urine
- Frequent urge to pass urine, especially at night
- Weak or interrupted urine stream
- Pain or burning when passing urine
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Painful ejaculation
By the time the symptoms present itself, the cancer may be advanced.
There are tests to find out if you have prostate cancer. The most common test is a rectal exam, followed by a blood test. A biopsy is then done to examine the prostate tissue cells. Other tests to see if the cancer has spread such as a bone scan or MRI may be performed. Once you have been diagnosed, your doctor will discuss and provide the right course of treatment for you.
What can you do to prevent or treat prostate cancer?
Studies have shown that lifestyle changes especially diet and exercise have a significant influence in prostate cancer prevention and treatment. Exercise and a healthy diet also play a critical role in the prevention of other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Anything you do to keep your heart healthy, can also keep your prostate healthy.
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to an accumulation of body fat, which can contribute to the development of inflammation and raise insulin levels. This excess body fat, especially around the middle, can increase inflammation and oxidation in the cells of your body, two natural processes that are strong contributors to the development and progression of prostate cancer.
Oxidation is a normal chemical reaction that occurs when free radicals form within the cells of the prostate. Once they are free to roam around, they initiate a process of breaking down normal cellular structures, causing damage and promoting the development of cancer.
Inflammation is a biochemical process that your body initiates when fighting off an infection. While trying to fight infection, those oxygen radicals are also breaking down normal tissue. Cancer can spread when the inflammatory cells leads to the wasting away of normal prostate tissue.
Here’s what’s important: While you can’t change certain risk factors like your age or race, nutritional and exercise habits that reduce the development of oxidation and inflammation can be changed.
Regular exercise causes many changes in your body that help reduce circulating levels of reactive oxygen inflammation. Beyond burning calories, endurance type exercises, such as walking, running, cycling, and swimming, are particularly effective at increasing the body’s natural levels of antioxidants, eliminating inflammatory molecules that drive cancer. Keeping extra pounds off will help minimize and reverse lower urinary tract symptoms linked to an enlarged prostate.
A healthy diet is also key to maintaining a healthy body weight. Many foods have anti inflammatory properties and antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and ocean caught fish. Tomato based products can increase the levels of the antioxidant lycopene.
If you have any questions about how to start or maintain an exercise program we’re here for you!
- “About the Prostate”. Accessed June 8, 2015. Prostate Cancer Foundation. http://www.pcf.org/site/c.leJRIROrEpH/b.5802023/k.B322/About_the_Prostate.htm
- “Understanding Prostate Changes: A Health Guide for Men. Accessed June 8, 2015. NIH National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/types/prostate/understanding-prostate-changes#prostate
- “Nutrition, Exercise and Prostate Cancer”. Accessed June 8, 2015. Prostate Cancer Foundation. http://www.pcf.org/atf/cf/%7B7c77d6a2-5859-4d60-af47-132fd0f85892%7D/NUTRITION-EXERCISE-AND-PROSTATE-CANCER.PDF
- “Prostate Disease”. Accessed June 8, 2015. Medline Plus- U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/prostatediseases.html
- “Prostate Cancer.” American Cancer Society. Accessed on 19 June 2015. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/.