Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer that occurs in men. It is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in American men followed by lung and colorectal cancer. Prostate cancer usually grows slowly and is confined to the prostate gland. In most cases, if caught early it is easily treatable. Unfortunately, other types of prostate cancer are aggressive and can spread quickly.
Prostate cancer is a cancer of the prostate gland. The prostate gland is a walnut-sized gland present only in men, found in the pelvis below the bladder. It wraps around the urethra (the tube that extends from the bladder) and lies in front of the rectum. The prostate produces seminal fluid helps nourish and transport sperm. This fluid is essential to reproduction.
The exact cause of this cancer is known. Several risk factors for developing prostate cancer have been identified, but which of these risk factors cause a prostate cell to become cancerous is not fully known. Approximately 5%-10% of prostate cancers may be due to inherited gene changes. Several inherited genes have been identified that increase the risk of prostate cancer, including RNASEL, BRCA 1, and BRCA 2, DNA mismatch genes, HPC1, and HoxB13. Hormone imbalance, inflammation and toxins also seem to play a role in prostate cancer.
Most men develop microscopic cancer in their prostate if they live long enough and they do not progress to full-blown prostate cancer. Fifty percent of men older than age 70 and all men over age 90 normally have some microscopic cancer changes in their prostates.
Prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages. Many of the symptoms are due to the enlargement of the prostate gland. These symptoms are not specific to prostate cancer and can be caused by other conditions like benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostatitis, an infection of the prostate.
As the cancer grows symptoms may include:
- Trouble urinating
- Decreased force in the stream of urine
- Blood in semen
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
- Decreased force of urine stream;
- Difficulty starting (hesitancy)
- Frequent urination
- Pain or burning on urination
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
- Back, hip, pelvic or abdominal pain
- Weight loss
Prostate Cancer Screening
Most prostate cancer can be identified easily before any symptoms develop. A simple prostate-specific antigen (PSA) can identify early prostate cancer. Men with prostate cancer have elevated PSA levels. It is important that men include PSA testing as a part of their annual wellness evaluation to identify potential problems when easily treatable.
Salivary hormone testing is also essential to identify those men at risk. It is well known that prostate cancers are influenced by androgens such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and estrogens. Balancing your hormones can decrease your risk for this cancer.
Androgens stimulate prostate cancer cells to grow. Most androgens are made by the testicles, but the adrenal glands and prostate cancer cells can make significant amounts too. Lowering androgen levels or stopping them from getting into prostate cancer cells often makes prostate cancers shrink or grow more slowly for a time. Hormone balance is crucial in the prevention of this cancer.
Eating a healthy diet rich in nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of prostate cancer. High dose vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and selenium which increase immune function and decrease inflammation have shown promise as a treatment. Most adults have cancer cells but those with a healthy immune system are able to destroy these cells before they grow into large cancers.
Gut health can also play a role. The gut is responsible for handling toxins that we are exposed to. A healthy gut can rid the body of toxins which damage cell DNA that leads to cancer. Probiotics and fiber help gut health and the removal of toxins from the colon.
If you suspect that you are at risk or have symptoms of prostate cancer, it is imperative that you contact your doctor for proper screening.
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