According to research, two-thirds of men don’t know the symptoms of prostate cancer. That needs to change.
When you look at the stats around prostate cancer, it’s pretty scary. According to research conducted:
- 52,254 new cases of prostate cancer each year between 2016-2018.
- On average, 143 men every day are diagnosed with prostate cancer.
- 12,000 deaths from prostate cancer every year.
- Every 45 minutes one man dies from prostate cancer.
- 1-8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
- Around 475,000 men are living with prostate cancer.
We told you it was grim.
But what’s more alarming is the vast amount of people who don’t know the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer. According to a poll conducted by YouGov, of the 1,456 men questioned, 68% of them responded that they didn’t know any symptoms whatsoever. Even among older men, who are at an increased risk, 62% of men aged 50-59 did not know any signs, nor did 60% of 60-69-year-olds or 54% of 70 to 79-year-olds.
In this article, we will explain the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, who’s at the most risk, how to test for prostate cancer and how to reduce your risk. But first, let’s explain what your prostate actually is.
What is Your Prostate?
The prostate is a gland, usually the size of a walnut and grows bigger as you get older. It’s nestled just underneath your bladded and surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries your pee out of the body. The prostate’s main role is to help make semen – the fluid that carries sperm.
What Are the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?
According to the NHS website, the symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- Peeing more frequently, often during the night.
- Needing to rush to the toilet.
- Difficulty in starting to pee (hesitancy).
- Straining or taking a long time to pee.
- A weak flow.
- Feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully.
- Blood in urine or blood in semen.
It’s important to note that these symptoms do not definitely mean you have prostate cancer – it could be simply down to prostate enlargement – but you should go to see the doctor straight away.
Other (Uncommon) Signs of Prostate Cancer
MH spoke with Professor Roger Kirby, one of the UK’s best-known and most experienced prostate surgeons. With over 20 years of experience, Roger has written nearly 70 books and published more than 240 scientific papers. He explains some of the lesser-known and uncommon symptoms surrounding prostate cancer.
- Intermittent Flow
While regular visits to the bathroom are a prostate red flag, so is misfiring when you get there. ‘Difficulty and pain passing urine is another warning sign,’ says Kirby, ‘due to cancer putting pressure on the urethra.’
- Back and Hip Pain
Don’t write sore joints off as an ageing inevitability. ‘If the prostate cells travel to the bones in your back and hip, it can cause immense pain,’ says Kirby.
- Big Legs
If cancer spread to your lymph nodes it can cause blockages. ‘It’s a condition known as lymphedema,’ says Kirby, ‘which leads to fluid build-up and causes swelling and pain in the legs.’
- Tingling and Burning
‘Many men believe shooting or stabbing pains in the prostate are normal and will pass,’ says Kirby. ‘But it can be neuropathic pain, which occurs when the cancer attacks nerves in the bones and causes them to die.
Signs that Prostate Cancer Has Spread:
- Bone and back pain
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in the testicles
- Unintentional weight loss.
Who’s Most at Risk of Prostate Cancer?
The most common risk factor for prostate cancer is age. The older a man is, the greater the chance of getting prostate cancer. Research shows that prostate cancer is most common in men aged over 50. However, studies have shown there are other risk factors:
- Having a family history of prostate cancer: you may have an increased risk of getting a type of prostate cancer caused by genetic changes that are inherited.
- Being black: it’s still somewhat unclear why Black men are more likely to get prostate cancer, but many agree it could be down to genetics. In the UK, 1-4 Black men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime.
How to Test for Prostate Cancer
According to the NHS, there’s no single, definitive test for prostate cancer. In order to minimise stress and anxiety, doctors will discuss the pros and cons of various tests in order to get a clearer picture of what is happening. A urine test is usually done first to check for infection.
Next will be a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test, which measures levels of a protein which can be a marker of the disease. But it’s a far from perfect indicator. GPs are often reluctant to test those under fifty, and critics refer to them as a “producer of stress and anxiety”, as a high score can often have an innocent explanation – keen cyclists often have high PSAs, possibly due to the gland’s location. But it’s not your first number that really matters, it’s the variance in the next one that’s crucial.
“PSAs are sequential,” says Kirby. “So, it’s good to get a baseline in your forties, then compare it with the next.” Again, our ignorance of the disease rears its head. Around 70% of US men over 50 are reported to know their PSA scores. Kirby estimates that just 7% of men over 50 know their PSA scores.
Perhaps some of our wilful blindness is based on the next step of the testing process, the Digital Rectal Examination (DRE), which involves a clinician putting his finger up your bum. “It’s a tiny bit uncomfortable, but it’s over in 30 seconds and it’s better than dying of cancer,” says Kirby.
If it’s thought you are at risk, you will be referred to the hospital to discuss options and further tests that may include MRI scans and possibly biopsies.
How to Cut the Risk of Prostate Cancer
While there are certain factors out of your control when it comes to prostate cancer, there are many things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance of reducing the risks.
In 2014, the World Cancer Research Fund published a report showing that men who are higher in weight are more likely to develop an advanced or aggressive form of prostate cancer than men with a healthy weight. They also estimated that around 10 per cent of the men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in the UK each year could have avoided it if only they’d kept to a healthy weight.
READ MORE: How Carbs Can Actually Help You Lose Weight
Studies since then haven’t really argued with that conclusion. In fact, a 2017 study called ‘Weight Change, Obesity and Risk of Prostate Cancer Progression Among Men with Clinically Localised Prostate Cancer’ found that “long‐term weight gain was associated with an increased risk of lethal disease.”
Maintain a healthy diet
According to a 2017 study into the diet and lifestyle factors that affect prostate cancer progression, there are several additions to your diet that can help your chances of surviving the disease. The study, published in the World Journal of Urology, listed tomato sauce, cruciferous vegetables, healthy sources of vegetable fats, and coffee, as items that can reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression.
Separate studies have found that men in Western countries, such as the UK, are more likely to get prostate cancer than men in East Asian countries such as China and Japan, but when Asian men move to Western countries, their risk of prostate cancer increases. This may be because Western diets contain less fruit, vegetables and fish, and more meat, dairy, sugar, fat and processed foods. So, if you ever needed an excuse to change your diet then perhaps a desire to avoid prostate cancer could be it.
We don’t have to tell you that if you want to improve your chances of avoiding cancer then you need to stop smoking. What you might not know, though, is quitting your nicotine habit will also help your chances of surviving prostate cancer.
“Smoking is not just linked to lung cancer. It’s also linked to prostate cancer,” said oncologist Dr David Wise. “In particular, smoking is linked to aggressive forms of prostate cancer that are more likely to spread.”
If you don’t want to take the doctor’s word for it, then perhaps you’ll believe this study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, which suggested that smoking was associated with higher smoking associated with higher levels of “prostate cancer-specific mortality”.
It goes without saying that exercising regularly is good for your general health, but people who keep active are also less likely to develop health problems such as heart disease and some cancers. While we don’t yet know whether physical activity can help to prevent prostate cancer specifically, some studies suggest it may help to lower your risk, particularly of contracting aggressive prostate cancers.
A 2018 study into the link between exercise and prostate cancer found that exercise could be used to complement and increase the potency of traditional prostate cancer treatments “by creating an unfavourable microenvironment that can negatively affect tumour development, and progression.” So don’t just exercise for your physique, your mental health or to attract women – do it to avoid prostate cancer.
Does Ejaculation Reduce Prostate Cancer?
According to an Australian study, Ejaculation Frequency and Subsequent Risk of Prostate Cancer, DIY sex may help prevent prostate cancer. The study of 2,338 men showed that guys who masturbated five or more times a week were 34 per cent less likely to develop prostate cancer by age 70 than those who pleasured themselves less often.
There you have it, ejaculate more if you want to ward off prostate cancer, and if you need some help helping yourself then try these 10 masturbation tips and techniques that’ll blow your damn mind.
Did You Know…
- See red. Tomato skin is packed with prostate-protecting lycopene: “10 portions a week can cut your risk by up to 20%,” says Kirby. A salad’s better than a sauce-slathered bacon sarnie.
- Ditch the supps. You might think you’re protecting your skeleton with calcium pills, but it could be doing more damage. “The recommended intake is 1500mg,” says Kirby. “Going over this can increase the risk of cancer by 300%.” Best stick to milk.
- Oil up. “Omega-3 fatty acids in fish have been proven to protect against cancer cells,” says Kirby. Get three portions a week to deliver an anti-inflammatory dose to any dodgy growths.
- Chill. “Stress is a much more serious issue than we realise,” warns Kirby. Your bulging in-tray plays havoc with your hormones and immune system, opening the door to cancer cells. Try these mood-levellers to regain your prostate zen. It’s the smart move.
*By Robert Hicks
*This article originally appeared on Men’s Health UK