Breaking the Silence: A Look at Prostate Cancer
One of the most common types of male cancer, prostate cancer is cancer that affects the prostate, a gland shaped like a walnut responsible for producing the seminal fluid that nourishes and carries sperm.
Prostate cancer is slow-growing cancer that first grows in the prostate gland, where it is confined and may not always cause serious harm. Some types of prostate cancer require very minimal to no treatment, while other types are more aggressive and spread fast.
When detected early, prostate cancer that’s still confined to the prostate gland has a better chance of successful treatment.
Symptoms or signs might not show up in the early stages of prostate cancer. In advanced cases, the following symptoms may be experienced:
- Blood in Semen
- Bone Pain
- Decreased Force in the Urine Stream
- Discomfort in the Pelvic Area
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Trouble Urinating
When to See a Doctor
If you experience any signs or symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.
In the medical field, there is an ongoing debate about the benefits and risk of prostate cancer screening, and not all medical organizations share the same recommendations. Make sure to discuss prostate cancer with your primary physician so both of you can decide the next action to take.
Doctors have found that prostate cancer starts when there is an abnormality in a few cells in the prostate. Mutations in the abnormal cells’ DNA cause the cells to multiply and spread faster than normal cells do, and while the normal cells maintain their normal life cycle, the abnormal cells live beyond their time. When abnormal cells accumulate, a tumor develops, and this tumor can spread and invade nearby tissue. In addition, abnormal cells can also spread to the body’s other parts.
Here are the factors that increase the risk of prostate cancer in men:
- Obese men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are likely to have advanced types that are harder to treat.
- A family history of cancer will put you at an increased risk of prostate cancer. Your risk is increased if men in your family have prostate cancer or if you have a family member with breast cancer.
- For reasons unknown, African-American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than other races. They also tend to have a more advanced or aggressive type of prostate cancer.
- The risk of acquiring prostate cancer increases as men get older.
The following are the known complications of prostate cancer:
- Erectile Dysfunction. A person diagnosed with prostate cancer can have erectile dysfunction or have one as a result of surgery, hormone treatments, or radiation. Vacuum devices and medications that can help achieve an erection and surgery are available to combat erectile dysfunction.
- Urinary Incontinence. Incontinence treatment methods depend on the severity of cancer and the chance of improvement over time. Incontinence can be treated with surgery, catheters, and medication.
- Metastatic Cancer. There is a likelihood for prostate cancer to spread to nearby organs by traveling through your lymphatic system or bloodstream all the way to your bladder, bones, and other organs. Once prostate cancer metastasizes, it can still be treated, but the chance of it being cured is reduced.
Although you cannot completely eliminate the risk of prostate cancer, several actions can be taken to help reduce the risk.
- Incorporate fruits and veggies to your diet. As much as possible, you should avoid foods high in fat and favor choosing a variety of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Fruits and veggies are rich in vitamins and nutrients that are all beneficial to one’s health.
- Prioritize healthy foods over supplements. A lot of people have come to rely on supplements to improve their health, but experts say that foods rich in vitamins and minerals are still the best source for the nutrients that our body needs.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can help you maintain the ideal weight, enhance your mood, and improve your overall health. Studies have shown that men lacking in exercise have higher levels of PSA while those who have a regular exercise routine have a lower risk of developing this type of cancer.
- Maintain your ideal weight. If you already have a healthy weight, make sure to maintain it by exercising regularly. If your doctor gives advice that you need to lose weight, work on reducing your caloric intake and add more exercise. You can ask your doctor or a dietician to create a healthy weight loss plan for you.
- Talk to your doctor about prostate cancer. If you have a high risk of prostate cancer, there are certain medications you can take to reduce the risk. According to studies, taking 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, including dutasteride and finasteride may control the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Screening for Prostate Cancer
Medical organizations are still on a debate of whether healthy men should screen for prostate cancer, but some professionals recommend prostate cancer screening in their 50s or sooner especially if they are high risk.
For best results, talk to your doctor about your risk and the benefits of early screening because working together is the only way to decide if you need testing for prostate cancer.
To test for prostate cancer, medical professionals perform PSA and DRE tests, and both tests are important in order to identify prostate cancer in its early stages.
- Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA). During a PSA test, a blood sample from the patient is analyzed for PSA. PSA is a substance naturally produced by your prostate gland. A small amount of PSA in your bloodstream is normal, but if you are positive for a high level of PSA, it may be a sign of prostate enlargement, inflammation, infection, or cancer.
- Digital Rectal Exam (DRE). In DRE, a qualified professional will insert a gloved and lubricated finger into your rectum to check your prostate. If your doctor finds anything unusual in the size, shape, or texture of the gland, you will be tested further.
Getting Ready for Your Appointment
If you are starting to suspect that you have prostate cancer, see your primary physician right away. Your doctor will refer you to a urologist if a prostate problem is suspected, and if you receive a cancer diagnosis, your doctor will refer you to an oncologist.
Even with a large amount of information to cover, doctor appointments are quite short so always come prepared. Here’s what you can do before and during your visit to the doctor.
- Know the restrictions before the day of the appointment. When making the appointment, ask if there’s anything you shouldn’t do before the actual appointment, such as diet restrictions.
- Keep a record of how you’re feeling and the symptoms you have. Whether or not you think it’s related to prostate cancer, never keep anything from your doctor.
- Take note of significant personal events which may include major life changes or recent stresses.
- Jot down what medications, supplements, and vitamins you’re taking.
- Take a friend or a close family member with you. It can be quite difficult to remember all the information you need for your first appointment so it would be helpful to have someone else with you to record information.
- Write down any specific questions you want to ask your doctor.
What to Expect from Your Doctor
Your doctor will obviously ask you some questions, so be ready with your answers and consider points that may not always be directly related to prostate cancer, such as personal information or life events. Some questions your doctor may ask are the following:
- Are you in pain as of the moment?
- When did you first feel the symptoms?
- Are your symptoms occasional or continuous?
- What are the possible triggers for your symptoms?
- What seems to improve your symptoms?
Coping and Support
When you find out you have prostate cancer, there’s a chance you’ll experience different kinds of emotions. While some people feel anxious and depressed, others experience anger, fear, or denial. These feelings are normal and in time, a person will eventually find a way to cope with a prostate cancer diagnosis. Until you receive an official diagnosis, here are some actions to take:
- Research prostate cancer so you’ll know what your treatment options are. Learn as much as you can about prostate cancer and the treatments available. Ask a healthcare professional to recommend some reliable sources of information.
- Have family and friends around. Your family and friends are the people you can rely on when it comes to support and encouragement in this trying time. They can help with some activities that you may not be able to perform during and after treatment. Ask a close friend or a family member to stay with you if you feel that you don’t have enough energy.
- Talk to other cancer survivors. Cancer survivors know what it’s like to be severely ill, so you can expect them to provide you with a network of support unlike anybody else. Talk to your doctor about existing community organizations or support groups that you can connect with.
- Take good care of yourself. Do not wallow in self-neglect, and try to get enough sleep and rest as much as you can. Take care of yourself during and after treatment by eating a healthy diet and exercising.
Post-Treatment: Managing Your Catheter
Those who have surgery for prostate cancer will have to use a catheter post-operation in order to drain urine out of the body. When wearing a catheter, you will have to make adjustments to manage living with a catheter and avoiding infections.
Here are the major dos and don’ts of using a catheter.
- Always wash your hands before and after touching your catheter.
- Always place the catheter below the level of the bladder.
- Make sure the tube is not bent or twisted to continuously drain urine.
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid getting infections.
- Shower with your catheter on.
- Use a washcloth that you only use for the area around the catheter tube.
- Wash the area at least twice a day using downward strokes to prevent infection.
- Always dry after washing.
- Use talcum powder or scented soap.
- Let the bag get too full – ensure it’s emptied out all the time.
- Strain when urinating.
- Lift anything heavy.
- Perform pelvic exercises just yet especially with a catheter on.
A pink, rusty, or rose-colored urine in your catheter after surgery is common, but if the unusual hue lasts for more than 48 hours or turns scarlet, contact your doctor or the hospital immediately.
Traveling with a Catheter
If you must travel with a catheter, ask your nurse about some basic caring tips for your catheter. Take an extra catheter with you and plenty of valves and drainage bags, and if traveling abroad, utilize a medical supply delivery service for your catheter and supply needs. Ask your doctor for a medical validation certificate that explains the reason why you’re wearing a catheter because this will make things easier if your bag is searched by customs officials.
The Men’s Liberty Difference
When choosing a catheter, many options are available including the Men’s Liberty external catheter. Wearing a Men’s Liberty catheter is beneficial to men from all walks of life because it directs urine away from the skin and uses a latex-free adhesive. Wearable for up to 24 hours, the Men’s Liberty catheter is an alternative solution to the standard catheter.