Prostate cancer awareness

In the spirit of Movember, we want to spread awareness about a prevalent issue that men are faced with, which is prostate cancer. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Philipp Bannwart, a general practitioner, who shared some very insightful information on this topic.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate. The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland in males that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men (after skin cancer), but it can oftentimes be treated successfully. Statistically, about 97% of men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive five years later.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Symptoms may include:

  • frequent urination, especially at night
  • increased frequency during the day
  • weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • painful urination
  • painful ejaculation
  • blood in the urine or semen

These symptoms often begin to manifest in a man’s 40s. Around 50% of men experience these symptoms in their 50s. Statistically, about 90% of men over the age of 80 have issues with the prostate, making this a very prevalent issue.

If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms, please contact your doctor. Please note that these symptoms may be caused by conditions other than prostate cancer.

What are ways to prevent prostate cancer?

Prevention of prostate cancer is not as straightforward as we would like it to be. Like anything in life, the more you take care of your body, the healthier you are, the less inflammation one produces in his body, the higher the chances of keeping the prostate healthy.

It is very important to note the strong genetic compound. One can do his part, however, it is wise to know one’s family history of prostate health, especially in first-degree relatives (father, son, brother), including relatives in three generations on the mother’s or father’s side of the family.

If a patient has family history of prostate issues then the issue is likely to be addressed earlier than in patients with no such history or symptoms.

Although prevention is difficult, there are, for example, natural elements that are great for the prostate, such as pumpkin seeds or palm oil extract. These treatments are often recommended once early symptoms manifest. Please note that although there are natural alternative treatments, this should be monitored by a doctor and be done in combination with lab work.

What is often missed in prostate diagnosis?

There had been quite a shift in recent years regarding this. Unlike in the previous years, we are now inquiring about symptoms and family history rather than referring patients to screenings, which sometimes prove to be unnecessary.

Screening for prostate cancer

Whether or not to get a screening with a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test is an individual decision. Before making the decision, men should talk to their doctor about the benefits and harms of the testing, as well as the benefits and harms of other tests and treatment.
Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test is a very sensitive test, which shows what is occurring in the prostate. However, due to the sensitivity of the testing, it can also show too much, including minor inflammation. Unfortunately, overly aggressive treatment based on PSA test results can do more harm than good.

Interestingly enough, 10 years ago the PSA use to be a routine test for men over 50 years of age. However, the mortality rate seemed to increase with the ordering of this test. This phenomenon can be explained by the sensitivity of the test, which therefore results in making men worse than they really are.
Nowadays the PSA is typically done only when there is a foundation and need for it, as, after all, it can potentially save a life.

If you are thinking about being screened, you need to consider whether you have a family history of prostate cancer, if you have other medical conditions that may make it difficult for you to be treated for prostate cancer if it is found, the value of potential benefits and harms of screening, diagnosis, and treatment.

Are men more aware of prostate cancer nowadays?

Dr. Bannwart believes that this is still not a topic people openly discuss, however, men tend to be quite open when speaking about it with their physicians. Although men may be occasionally reluctant to subject themselves to the digital exam, there is an awareness of the importance of the topic. Typically, their concerns are quickly put to rest once the procedure is explained in more detail.

Generally, physicians are often faced with two categories of patients, those that are overly informed, eager to fix anything that may be wrong, which may sometimes include even pushing for overly aggressive treatments, and the other group, patients who prefer to avoid any notion of health issues.

Remember that the general recommendation for men is to have a routine check-up at the age of 50. If a patient has a cancer history in the family, it is recommended to do so 10 years prior. Please do not hesitate to address this with your doctor.

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