I know several men with prostate cancer. In fact, one of them is on his death-bed. But don’t worry. It’s a slow-growing cancer, and it’s possible to live with it for a long time. It’s also possible to avoid. (see below) But first, here are some things you should know
The American Cancer Society predicts that 220,800 new cases of prostate cancer would be diagnosed in 2015. An estimated 27,640 men will die of it. African-American men are more likely to get prostate cancer and have the highest death rate. Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. In other parts of the world — notably Asia, Africa, and Latin America — prostate cancer is rare.
If you are a man over 50 years old and don’t already suffer from prostate problems, the odds are 2 to 1 that you will before you turn 59.
Almost all men experience the symptoms of prostate enlargement and some form of prostate-induced discomfort during their lifetime, and especially after the age 50. These include frequent and urgent urination, urination through the night, a weak stream or one that is difficult to start or stop, and reduced sexual libido. The symptoms typically appear with the beginnings of hair loss and eventual baldness. The cause is an imbalance of sex hormones.
The connection between dementia and ADT therapy
A new study at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found there is a connection between androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) — a testosterone-lowering therapy for prostate cancer– and dementia.
Their previous studies have shown men who undergo ADT may be at an increased risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, compared to men who were not treated with the therapy. This new analysis — the largest of its kind ever performed on this topic — shows that all existing studies taken together support the link to dementia and show a possible link to Alzheimer’s.
This is not good news. The common side effects of ADT are hot flashes and enlarged breasts, which are definitely annoying but symptoms you can live with. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are another story.
Other treatments for prostate cancer include surgery, radiation, and brachytherapy, a type of internal radiation that plants radioactive “seeds” in the prostate. But these treatments also carry risk of side effects including urine leakage, poor sexual function, and bowel problems. It’s important to speak with your doctor to determine which treatment is best for you and what side effects you are willing to live with.
Prevention is the key
- b-Sitosterol is one of a group of phytosterols that promote prostrate and male uro-genital health. b-sitosterol and other phytosterols support male urinary and prostate health by inhibiting the uptake of cholesterol into the blood. This redirects the conversion of cholesterol into the steroids from which the sex hormones are made. As hundreds of scientific studies have demonstrated, the cells of the prostate respond to these rejuvenated hormones and de-proliferate, reducing the size of the prostate and the symptoms
- Boron is found in red wine, raisins, peanuts, apples, pears, peaches, oranges, grapes, lima beans, and peanut butter. Studies have shown that men with the highest boron intake were 65 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than men with the lower boron intake. Researcher found that boron’s cancer-fighting effects seem to be specific for prostate cancer, so make sure you eat your daily dose of apples and oranges.
- If you like tomato sauce, you’re in luck. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant found in red fruits and vegetables, especially tomatoes, watermelon, red grapefruit, and guava. Researchers have linked the frequent use of lycopene from tomatoes to a lower risk of prostate and other cancers. Interestingly, Lycopene is best assimilated and absorbed after eating tomatoes cooked in olive oil.
- Selenium intake has been directly associated with lower risk of prostate cancer. In a Harvard School of Public Health study, men who received at least 200 micrograms of selenium in a daily nutritional supplement were one-third less likely to get prostate cancer than the men who received a placebo. Selenium is found in tuna, brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds.
- Zinc is important for a healthy prostate gland. Since the prostate gland requires 10 times more zinc than any other gland or organ in the body, researchers believe that a zinc deficiency might contribute to BPH. Foods that are high in zinc: pumpkin seeds, oysters, beef, lamb, toasted wheat germ, spinach, squash seeds, nuts, dark chocolate, pork, chicken, beans, and mushrooms. Play it safe and take a zinc nutritional supplement. Make sure it contains some copper, which optimizes absorption.
What does the prostate gland do?
The prostate is the size and shape of a walnut and is located under the bladder and directly in front of the rectum. It secretes a thick, whitish fluid that provides about half the fluid in semen, and helps transport sperm.
What causes prostate problems?
After about age 40, the prostate begins to grow in just about every male because DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a potent form of the male hormone testosterone, isn’t excreted efficiently. DHT then accumulates in the prostate, causing prostate cells to rapidly reproduce. Sometimes the enlargement is a sign of cancer. But usually the result is a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia. Most doctors refer to enlarged prostate simply as BPH.
As BPH develops, the prostate may press against the neck of the bladder or urethra, squeezing the pipe shut, like stepping on a garden hose. This pressure can make it difficult to urinate and may result in a variety of symptoms:
- Urgency—the need to go immediately
- During urination, there is a thin stream of urine that stops and starts instead of a full, steady stream
- Hesitancy or difficulty starting urine flow
- Dribbling after urinating
- Nocturia — having to get up frequently at night to urinate
- Increased frequency of urination
- Increased risk of infection if the bladder does not empty entirely and urine is retained
Unlike BPH, prostate cancer may not give symptoms in its early, curable stage. This is why every year start in your 40s it’s important to get a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test, in which the blood is analyzed for evidence of cancer.
Barbra Cohn cared for her husband Morris for 10 years. He passed away from younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Afterward, she was compelled to write “Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s & Dementia” in order to help other caregivers feel healthier and happier, have more energy, sleep better, feel more confident, deal with feelings of guilt and grief, and to ultimately experience inner peace. “Calmer Waters” is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Boulder Book Store, Tattered Cover Book Store, Indie Bound.org, and many other fine independent bookstores, as well as public libraries.