September is observed as Prostate Awareness Month in a number of countries worldwide. During this time persons are encouraged to wear a light blue ribbon, which symbolises hope for those who are affected by prostate cancer. The idea is to increase public awareness of prostate health, educate people about; the risk factors and symptoms of prostate related diseases, methods of testing, possible treatment options and what can be done to potentially reduce the risk of developing prostate related diseases. Prostate cancer has a serious impact on men’s health. It is a disease that affects millions of men worldwide. Let us take a look at some key points to keep in mind when focusing on prostate health.
What is the Prostate?
The prostate is part of the male reproductive system that helps to make and store seminal fluid. It is located in the pelvis, under the urinary bladder and in front of the rectum. The prostate surrounds part of the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder during urination and semen during ejaculation. Its location makes it susceptible to prostate diseases that often affect urination, ejaculation and in very rare cases, defecation.
What are some of the signs of a prostate problem?
Symptoms of non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant) Prostate problems tend to be similar. Some of the signs that indicate a potential prostate problem include; discomfort and frequent visits to the bathroom caused by an enlarged prostate gland, delay in emptying the bladder or being unable to pass urine at all. The latter can cause the bladder to become full to the point where it overflows with extreme discomfort and pain into the lower belly or back.
What is prostate cancer?
Cancer can develop in any part of the body and the prostate gland can develop it too. Prostate cancer is classified as an adenocarcinoma, or glandular cancer, that begins when normal semen-secreting prostate gland cells mutate into cancer cells. Over time, these cancer cells begin to multiply and spread to the surrounding prostate tissue forming a tumour. Prostate cancer, like any other cancer if not detected early and not treated appropriately can spread to other parts. It is one of the most common cancers that affect men above the age of 50 years old in many parts of the world. In the UAE, within the Abu Dhabi emirate, it has been reported to be the 3rd most common cancer in men.
How do you determine if you have prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer can be cured if it is detected in its early stages. It is important to keep in mind that the early stages of prostate cancer may not have any symptomatic signs or indications. It is recommended that regular prostate check ups and examinations by an UroOncologist or Urologist be done. The examination involves a digital rectal exam (DRE) and the blood test is called prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. If cancer is suspected, a biopsy is offered expediently. The only confirmatory test for diagnosis of prostate cancer is a biopsy. This involves the removal of small pieces of the prostate for microscopic examination by the pathologist.
Why is awareness of this disease so important?
Naturally, information is power and with prostate cancer it could mean the difference between life and death. Early detection increases the possibility of curing the disease. It helps in deciding the stage that the cancer is at, options for managing and treating it. Overall, it is best to speak with your UroOncologist or Urologist to decide the best treatment options for you.
In conclusion, Prostate Awareness Month is about getting an important message out there on a life threatening disease that affects men. It is crucial to keep the conversation going even after the month of September, so as to help in bringing more attention to the disease and garner more funding for research. To support men with prostate cancer all over the world, wear your light blue ribbon of hope.
Dr Rishikesh Pandya
Dr Rishikesh Pandya is an UroOncologist with special interest in Prostate Disease Management.