About 10 years ago, my father was diagnosed at the age of 54 with prostate cancer. Luckily it was in the earliest stages and he was able to have surgery and treatment which eliminated the cancer. It was a huge relief for him and our family to have him back to health and living cancer free. However, prostate cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer among men over the age of 75, according to the National Institutes of Health. Therefore, having a basic understanding of the prostate is an important part of your health.
The prostate is a small, walnut sized structure located behind the bladder but in front of the rectum. The prostate makes up a portion of a man’s reproductive system. Almost all men experience an enlarged prostate as they age; this is called benign prostatic hyperplasia. This does not necessarily mean that a man will be at a higher risk for prostate cancer. However, it could raise the prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which is a protein produced in the prostate. The PSA blood test is used to follow and diagnose prostate cancer in men.
There are other reasons why your PSA level can rise. For instance, if you have had a urinary tract infection, prostate infection, or a recent catheter placed in your bladder to release urine. If you have a raised PSA level, your doctor will look at additional factors such as age (the average age to be diagnosed with prostate cancer is 65), ethnicity (African-American males run a higher risk for prostate cancer), diet and family history. An interesting finding is that men who have a diet high in animal fat have a higher chance of developing prostate cancer compared to those who follow a vegetarian diet.
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, besides your PSA levels, there are other symptoms that could indicate a problem with the prostate. Frequent urination, difficulty starting or stopping urination, weak flow of urine, blood in the urine, and stiffness or pain in the lower back and hips are all possible signs you should be aware of.
When it comes to prostate cancer, your own intuition may be the first line of defense. Pay attention to your body and speak up if you experience changes. It may be embarrassing to talk about, but talking about it could be the reason you catch the cancer at the early stages.