In news that will be greeted with a nod of quiet relief by many men across the land, the the American Urological Association (AUA) has raised the age for the start of prostate cancer screening to men aged 55 to 69.
Routine screening is no longer recommended for men 40 to 54 years old at average risk of getting prostate cancer.
The association had strongly defended screening younger men even after a government advisory committee, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, suggested in 2011 that healthy men should not be screened as more men would be harmed by unnecessary prostate cancer treatments than would be saved from death.
The new guidelines suggest screening might benefit men aged 55 to 69, as they have a greater risk of cancer, but even here testing does not have to be mandatory. Rather, the AUA suggest men should discuss the benefits and harms with their doctors. And if they opt for screening, every two years is enough.
I am sure many men, myself included, may be sort of relieved about delaying what can be a pretty intrusive procedure.
I don’t mean to diminish prostate cancer as a disease. I can only imagine how scary it will be for the 240,000 American men the American Cancer Society suggests will sit down with their doctors this year to be told they have prostate cancer. And 30,000 fathers, brothers, grandfathers and other close family members will die from this awful condition in 2013.
Yet, I still feel somewhat relieved that the day I face this procedure has been delayed.
The Walnut-Sized Gland that Can Keep on Growing
So, what is this organ that gets such attention? Technically, this walnut-sized gland is part of a man’s sex organs. It surrounds the urethra, a tube that takes urine from the bladder to the penis and carries semen during ejaculation.
This odd little gland grows quite a bit during puberty, stops, and then for some reason decides to grow again when we hit 40. It’s not clear at all why this resurgence happens, but hormonal changes often get the blame. Anyway, for some unfortunate men, when it starts to grow again, there does not seem to be an off switch.
So while, half of us are not bothered at all by this renewed growth, the rest will develop one of three conditions: enlarged prostate, prostate cancer, or prostatitis (inflammation). A really unlucky few may develop more than one of these conditions at the same time.
Let’s have a quick look at them:
- Prostatitis: Inflammation of the prostate, sometimes caused by infection
- Enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), affects virtually all men over 50
- Prostate cancer: It comes in four stages and can be managed or treated with surgery or radiation
With an enlarged prostate, it suddenly becomes a lot more difficult to go to the toilet, and it only gets more difficult with age.
This, I fear, might explain why my grandfather spent so long in the bathroom making all sorts of noises during his visits from the city to our small coastal village. I can now imagine his struggle: His bladder muscle thickened, as he was forced to squeeze harder to push urine through a partially obstructed prostate gland. This thickening left less room to store urine, to go along with the reduced ability to expel urine. The poor man needed to use our bathroom more often and probably experienced a weak urinary stream, sudden urges to urinate, straining to get urine to pass, and he probably urinated more than once during the night.
The risk of sharing this fate increases by about 4% percent a year after men hit 55. By age 60, half of all men will suffer from BPH. That number jumps to 95 percent by age 85.
And then, there is the dreaded: prostate cancer, which comes in four stages:
- The cancer cannot be felt during a digital rectal exam (Dre) or seen with an imaging test. It is likely to grow slowly
- The cancer can be felt during a Dre but has not spread beyond the prostate
- The cancer has broken through the prostate
- The cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the bladder, rectum, bone, liver, lungs or lymph nodes
According to the Mayo Clinic: Most prostate cancer grows slowly and initially stays within the prostate gland, but it can spread to local lymph nodes, bones or more distant areas. Some rare types of prostate cancer are more aggressive and can spread more quickly.”
Second only to skin cancer in men, prostate cancer will affect one in six of us in our lifetime, but only one in 35 will die from it, so it need not be all doom and gloom.
A 2012 Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) study suggested that men diagnosed with prostate cancer are more likely to be killed by such largely preventable conditions as heart disease than they ever are from the cancer.It also said healthy lifestyle changes should play a critical role in prostate cancer management.
Report author Mara Epstein said:
We hope this study will encourage physicians to use a prostate cancer diagnosis as a teachable moment to encourage a healthier lifestyle, which could improve the overall health of men with prostate cancer, increasing both the duration and quality of their life.
To Treat or to Manage
Management of prostate cancer is becoming increasingly important because America and the western world in general now finds itself in the odd position more men are being diagnosed with prostate cancer but fewer are dying from it.
The Harvard study also showed that while the risk of dying from prostate cancer has declined, the risk of death from heart disease and non-prostate cancer has actually remained the same.
Hans-Olov Adami, professor of epidemiology at Harvard, said:
Our study shows that lifestyle changes such as losing weight, increasing physical activity, and quitting smoking, may indeed have a greater impact on patients’ survival than the treatment they receive for their prostate cancer.
Basically, your cancer treatment options come down to radiation, surgery, or watching and waiting:
- Surgery, known as a prostatectomy, to remove the prostate
- Radiation, to kill prostate cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells
- Radioactive seed implants, planted into the prostate to kill cancer cells
- Cryotherapy, killing prostate cancer cells by freezing them
- Hormone therapy, to inhibit cancer cells growing in response to hormones
- Chemotherapy, to help reduce the spread of advanced cancer
- Watchful waiting, to see if the cancer is actually growing
I’m sure most of us would just want the cancer out as soon as we are diagnosed, but that may not be the best option or the one suggested by your doctor.
Prostate cancer can grow slowly, so men with small, symptom-free tumors can have their condition managed, using periodic checkups, PSA tests and ultrasounds. A course of treatment can be undertaken down the road when and if, needed.
This management versus treatment discussion is one you should also have with your doctor if you have an enlarged prostate.
Typically, if you have an enlarged prostate but are not bothered by it, and the level of urine left in your bladder after you use the bathroom is OK, treatment may not be necessary.
However, if it does trouble you, you have some treatment options.
For most that means medication. The medicines prescribed at this stage are usually alpha-blockers, which help relax the muscles around the urethra, or 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, which restrict testosterone and cause the prostate to shrink. The one, or mix, you will be given depends on your situation.
For around 75% of men, medications may do the job, at least initially. There are side effects, however, in around 5-8% of these men from the medication.
If medication is not suitable, you may be advised to undergo some minimally invasive procedures or surgical procedures to alleviate any obstruction.
Natural Support for Prostate Health
If you want to be a little more proactive about your prostate health there are a fair few positive steps you can take.
And pectin is a good place to start. Eating fruits and vegetables high in pectin may reduce your risk of getting prostate cancer. In some studies, prostate cancer cells died when combined with pectin, whereas non-cancerous non-cancerous cells didn’t die.
A natural thickening agent found in apples, pears and plums, pectin may reduce metastasis of some cancers and tumors.
The pectin may work by binding with a part of the formation and growth of tumors, known as galactin-3, and halting the growth of tumors.
Other fruit and vegetables with pectin are grapefruits, lemons, oranges, bananas, cherries, blackberries, apricots, raspberries, grapes, green beans, carrot, sweet potatoes, legumes, dried beans and squash.
Pomegranate, meanwhile, is known to have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may inhibit cell growth in aggressive prostate cancer.
There are several other natural steps that you can take that may benefit your prostate health.
- Switch to a low-fat diet comprising at least five or more servings of vegetables and cut back on the fried foods
- Start exercising, as high levels of physical activity, such as swimming, cycling, or jogging, may improve the health of your prostate.
- Take a zinc, saw palmetto, stinging nettle extract, green tea extract, pygeum, lycopene, selenium, rye grass extract or beta-sitosterol supplement, all of which are linked to prostate healthTips and Warnings
- Consume more vitamin C, which can reduce your risk of BPH
If you know of any other ways to naturally support prostate health, comment below — we would like to share them with our readers.
Oh, and three last things about prostate cancer
- Research suggests married men with prostate cancer are 40% less likely to die than single men with the disease.
- And drinking six cups of coffee a day seems to reduce the risk of localized prostate cancer, the slow growing kind that is generally confined to the gland, particularly among overweight and obese men.
- Two glasses of alcohol a day may lower your risk of BPH
And finally, I promise, but we have bills to pay here. So, I will just list some of our best-selling prostate supports, which include many of the natural ingredients mentioned above. They are all available with free domestic shipping within the US.
- Prosta DHT by Apex Energetics — a broad-spectrum nutritional formula designed to support healthy prostate function
- Prosta-Response by Source Naturals — a natural prostate supplement featuring a Bio-Aligned formula that supports prostate function and healthy urine flow.
- Bio-Prostate by Biogenesis — this formula helps not only support a healthy prostate function but also promote a healthy testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), balance, as well as enhanced control of bladder function
- Pros-Forte by Integrative Therapeutics blends saw palmetto extract with stinging nettle extract to provide natural support for prostate and urinary tract health.
- Prostatrol Forte from Ortho Molecular supports prostate health with a blend of all natural ingredients, including saw palmetto, nettles root, and pygeum bark extracts.