Communicating with Your Doctor is Key to Staying Healthy

Today marks the last day of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, but as we turn our focus toward other cancer awareness months, it is highly important that we continue to educate and advocate for men’s health issues such as prostate cancer. Excluding all skin cancers, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer deaths among men in Indiana and the United States. During 2010, there were 3,345 new cases of prostate cancer and 587 deaths as a result of prostate cancer in Indiana.

Risks and Symptoms

According to the Indiana Cancer Facts & Figures 2012, prostate cancer risk increases with age, rising quickly after the age of 50. Two out of three diagnoses occur in men over the age of 65.  Moreover, African-American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than any other racial or ethnic group, and they are more likely to die from prostate cancer than white males. In addition, men with one first-degree relative (father or brother) with a history of prostate cancer are two to three times more likely to develop the disease.

Prostate cancer is an uncontrolled growth and spread of cells in the prostate, an exocrine gland in the male reproductive system. Some common signs and symptoms of prostate cancer include:

  • Difficulty starting urination.
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine.
  • Frequent urination, especially at night.
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder completely.
  • Pain or burning during urination.
  • Blood in the urine or semen.
  • Painful ejaculation.
  • Pain in the back, hips or pelvis that doesn’t go away.

Sometimes there are no symptoms, and these symptoms can also occur as a result of non-cancerous conditions, such as prostate enlargement or infection. No symptoms are specific to prostate cancer.

Screenings and Prevention

Prostate cancer screenings are widely debated in the medical community; therefore, it is important for men to become informed decision makers. Screenings may lead to early detection and increased treatment effectiveness; however, some risks include false-positive test results and other serious side effects, such as impotence and incontinence. Given the potential risks linked to prostate cancer screening, it is vitally important that men talk with their doctor. Each man must weigh the benefits and the risks associated with screening, and make a decision based on what is right for him.

Like most cancers, individual actions and lifestyle choices can help prevent prostate cancer. In particular, men should:

  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Limit intake of red meats (especially processed meats such as hot dogs, bologna and lunch meat).
  • Avoid excessive consumption of dairy products and calcium.
  • Include recommended levels of lycopene (antioxidants that help prevent damage to DNA which are found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon) and vitamin E in their diet.
  • Meet recommended levels of physical activity.

To learn more about prostate cancer, please refer to the Indiana Cancer Facts and Figures 2012 report, a comprehensive report on the burden of cancer in Indiana.

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