Prostate cancer: The aging men’s enemy

November - often referred as Movember in solidarity with men’s health - is perhaps a suitable occasion to highlight a health issue that is the leading cause of death among men, prostate cancer. In 2018 alone, Prostate Cancer took lives of approximately 359,000 people across the globe with the number forecasted to increase to 740,000 deaths by 2040 due to a growth in aging population.

The statistics - sourced from European Urology website - should be a sufficient reason for men to keep tabs on their prostate health. Fortunately it’s relatively easy to monitor any signs of and symptoms of prostate issues, as long as there is an awareness about them. However, as a precaution, men over the age of 50 should consult their doctors if they should be tested for prostate cancer, and those who have associated risks, such as family history, can begin the screening process even earlier to be on the safe side.

It’s easy to spot the signs of prostate cancer. Typically, the disease manifests itself in burning pain while urinating or frequent urges to urinate, loss of bladder control, difficulty in urinating, painful ejaculation and blood in urine and semen, among others symptoms. In advanced stages, when the cancer spreads to other organs, patients experience swelling in legs and feet, pain in the back, thighs and shoulders and fatigue. If any or all of these signs appear, patients should consult their doctor for tests, and to begin surveillance and treatment of the disease.

Commenting on delayed diagnosis, Dr Krishanu Das, Consultant Adult & Pediatric Urologist, & Transplant Surgeon at Bahrain Specialist Hospital said, “Globally, around, 1,276,000 new cases were recorded last year, and the number is expected to grow. In this scenario it’s important that people take their prostate health seriously. We have seen cases of men who have lived with the disease and the associated discomfort for years, before coming forward and discussing it with their doctor. Usually, late diagnosis is caused by patient’s hesitancy and reluctance to discuss the issue, since many people are not comfortable discussing prostate issues openly”.

Typically, there are several ways to diagnose prostate cancer, Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) and Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, being the most common. Other procedures include biopsy, imaging testing and advanced genomic testing. An elevated levels PSA could suggest cancer of the prostate, although, it may not be definite. However, in cases of recurrent prostate cancer, the most common sign is high levels of PSA. This is why it’s imperative that aging men should not only keep a look out for the cancer symptoms, but also screen themselves regularly.

The treatment generally depends on what stage the cancer is. In a low-risk case, doctors opts for active surveillance that incudes rectal examination, follow up tests, and perhaps biopsies to monitor the cancerous growth. If they see it advancing to other organs, they treat it with surgery or radiation therapy. Other treatments include hormone therapy to cut off the supply of testosterone (since the cancer cells depends on testosterone to grow), chemotherapy and freezing the prostrate tissue.

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