Prostate cancer is a common affliction of men over the age of 50, yet few men affected even know they have it. In its early stages, the disease usually has no symptoms, making early detection difficult. When symptoms do appear, they are sometimes ignored as symptoms of beginning prostate enlargement, a common, non-threatening condition that affects middle aged men. Prostate cancer also eludes detection because it develops slowly. Unfortunately, if left untreated, prostate cancer can result in death. In fact, it is the third most common cause of cancer death and the second most common cause of cancer death among men.
Elderly men are, of course, at greatest risk; less than 1 percent of all cases are in men under 50. Men with a family history of prostate cancer are also at increased risk. Other risk factors include a history of sexually transmitted disease, regular exposure to industrial carcinogens and a high-fat diet.
Signs and Symptoms
In its early stages, prostate cancer often produces no symptoms. When it reaches later stages, the most common symptoms are:
- Increased frequency of urination
- Difficulty beginning or ending urination
- Pain during urination or ejaculation
- Weakened urine stream
- Blood in urine or semen
- Hip or lower back pain
- Appetite and weight loss
Diagnostic Studies And Procedures
The American Cancer Society recommends that all men over the age of 40 undergo annual screening for prostate cancer, starting with a digital rectal examination. For this test, a doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum and then feels the gland for unusual hardness or lumps. The same group also advocates that a blood test to measure prostate specific antigen (PSA, a substance secreted by prostate cells) should be done annually in addition to the digital exam, beginning at the age of 50. An elevated PSA level indicates an enlarged prostate, which is a sign of possible cancer. If either test produces suspicious results, a transrectal ultrasound examination, CT scan, or MRI may be ordered to detect any tumors. But none of these tests actually confirms prostate cancer; this requires a biopsy of tissue from suspicious areas of the gland. If cancer is detected, bone scans and other tests are necessary to determine whether or not it has spread.
Conventional Medical Treatment
If You have any symptoms of prostate cancer, see your physician who may perform arectal examination to check for signs of the condition. If the prostate feels enlarged, the doctor may want to conduct further tests-X-ray, blood test, urine analysis, or prostatic ultrasound. A biopsy of prostate tissue also may be required to confirm diagnosis.
Treatment for prostate cancer depends on the extent of the disease. If the cancer is small and limited to the prostate gland, the tumor itself may be surgically removed. If the cancer has spread throughout the prostate, the entire gland may have to be removed. In either case, follow-up radiation is usually given. If the cancer has spread to other tissues, your physician may administer a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. In some cases, an orchidectomy-removal of the testicles-is necessary to eliminate the male hormones that promote the growth of prostate cancer. The drugs leuprolide and flutamide may also be administered to further suppress male hormones.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
Nutrition and Supplementation
You should consume foods high in zinc (50 to 100 milligrams). Zinc nourishes the prostate gland and can be found in foods, such as mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, seafood, sunflower seeds, and whole grains. Eat cultured products, such as yogurt, in moderation. Eliminate red meat from your diet; there is a direct correlation between the consumption of red meat and prostate cancer.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture In the case of prostate cancer, acupuncture may be used to help improve energy flow to the prostate gland in an attempt to lessen swelling and make urination easier.
Acupressure should never be performed directly on the prostate gland in individuals with prostate cancer, as it may disturb the tumor and cause the disease to spread. However, it is perfectly fine to use acupressure on non-related sites (including Pericardium and various auricular points) to counteract nausea caused by conventional treatments.
Chinese Herbal Therapy Fu Zheng (a Chinese herbal therapy that includes ganoderma, atractylodes, ginseng, astragalus, ligustrum, and codonopsis) has proven effective in bolstering an immune system weakened by prostate cancer. In fact, the purpose of Fu Zheng is to strengthen both chi and blood; hence, the name fa (meaning “fortify”) and zheng (meaning “constitution”).
Chinese specialists consider cancer to be caused by dampheat conditions, and prescribe herbs to help bring the body back into balance.
There is very little you can do to treat prostate cancer on your own. However, you can reduce your risk of developing it by adopting the low fat diet described above and maintaining your ideal body weight. If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer and are concerned about the effects of treatment on sexual function. discuss your options with your doctor. New methods of removing the prostate reduce the likelihood of impotence, but you may have to seek out a surgeon trained in the procedure. Even when sexual function is preserved, a prostatectomy alters the route of ejaculation, sending the semen backward into the bladder instead of forward into the penis. This does not affect sexual pleasure for either party. but if conception is desired, artificial insemination will be necessary.