Written by Bukola Adebayo - Nigeria
Prostate cancer is a disease which affects only men and it affects the prostate - a gland in the male reproductive system.
Statistics by the National Cancer Registry estimate that one out of six men in the world will be diagnosed with prostate cancer before their golden jubilee.
Though statistics on this cancer is lacking in Nigeria, experts say the incidence is increasing. So, there are odds that one could have a father, grandfather, husband, brother or friend living with this disease at any time.
But the cheering news is that, experts say, it is preventable and treatable when detected early before irreversible damage has been done to the prostate.
Why should men be worried about this cancer? Apart from the fact that it affects their sexuality, it can also send the victim to an early grave.
Early detection is a challenge here, as many men are not likely to see their doctor unless it's an emergency. But this may be dangerous, doctors advise. Indeed, physicians say there is an appreciable increase in the number of men being diagnosed with this disease.
A consultant urologist, Dr. Sam Adeleke, says unlike in the past when only old men were diagnosed with the disease, doctors now see younger men with prostate cancer, hence, men of all ages must watch out.
Adeleke states that many men would die without even knowing they had the disease, as it usually has no symptoms. A few lucky ones may experience the warning signs, especially those at the advanced stages, physicians say.
Experts say the following factors may increase your risk of getting prostate cancer and advise that if four of these eight factors apply to you, then you must see a doctor to erase all doubts.
Black men have the highest rate of prostate cancer diagnosis and death in the world, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, United States of America.
"Worse, black men seem to get more severe form, are more likely to have the cancer come back after treatment and are more likely to die of this disease," Dr. Jane Worthington says. She recommends tests every year, starting at age 40.
A man is twice as likely to get the disease if he has one first-degree relative - father, brother, son - with a history of it, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
The risk goes up if more relatives are affected, Worthington says.
She states, "It may be as high as 50 per cent if three family members (father and two brothers, for example) have had it, if it occurs in three generations (grandfather, father, son) or if two relatives developed it younger than 55 years old."
And don't forget the women in the family. The expert adds that prostate cancer risk can be inherited from the mother's family as well. So, ask about your maternal family history.
Being over 50
The older the man, the higher his risk. "In men between 40-49, the risk of developing prostate cancer is one in 50," Worthington says. From 60-79, it's one in seven. But don't wait till you are 60 before you take a PSA test. "Prostate cancer screening should start at age 40," Worthington notes.
Being overweight or obese is a prostate cancer risk, according to many studies. Researchers found that men who put on extra weight in their 20s and 30s face a higher risk.
"A study by the American Cancer Society found that men with a BMI greater than 30 were 20-25 per cent were more likely to die of prostate cancer than thinner men," Worthington warns.
Experts believe that too much body fat throws off the body's normal production of insulin and testosterone, which may fuel growth of prostate cancer cells.
But that's not just the fear of prostate cancer here, as too much belly fat and a high-fat diet can also raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Eating fatty and fried food is also a problem. "Dietary fat may not only help cause prostate cancer, but it may also affect the way it progresses - how fast cancer cells proliferate, their ability to spread and the body's ability to fight off this invasion," Worthington explains.
Foods high in saturated fats, especially from animal products such as red meat and dairy, appear to be the worst dietary trigger for prostate cancer, Worthington says.
Cigarette smoking gives cancer cells a comfy place to grow, Worthington says.
"Research doesn't yet show that smoking causes prostate cancer, but it has proven that a nicotine habit can help it grow faster and more aggressively. Tell him to stop smoking now," Worthington advises.
"If he gets up frequently in the middle of the night to urinate, he could have problems with his prostate," Adeleke counsels.
This is because the urethra, the tube that carries urine and semen, runs right through the middle of the prostate like a straw, experts say.
Urinary troubles often signal benign prostatic hyperplasia - a non-cancerous enlargement of the gland that's common in men older than 40. Still, any changes in urination - including pain, weak flow, difficulty starting or stopping, frequent night time urination, or blood in the urine or semen - should be evaluated by a doctor.
Painful bowel movement
Because the prostate lives on the other side of the rectal wall, prostate enlargement or cancer can often cause pain during a bowel movement. This, along with a bloody stool, may also be a symptom of colorectal cancer.