September is Prostate Health Month and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. This is why it's the perfect time for you to learn how to improve prostate health. Below we've included some of the key fundamentals to help you get started.
The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland in men responsible for producing seminal fluid. Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men.
Typically, prostate cancer grows slowly and stays confined to the prostate at first where it may not cause serious harm. If it is slow growing and detected early, it has good chance of successful treatment.
While prostate cancer in its early stages may have no signs or symptoms, the following are possible symptoms of prostate cancer that may be more advanced.
- Trouble urinating
- Decreased force in the stream of urine
- Blood in semen
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
There are some types of prostate cancer that are more aggressive and can spread quickly. Talk to your doctor about whether you are at an increased risk for prostate cancer and should be doing more to prevent or screen for prostate cancer. Some risk factors you may discuss include:
- Age. The risk of prostate cancer increases as men get older.
- Race. For unknown reasons, African American men have an increased risk of prostate cancer and it is more likely to be aggressive or advanced.
- Family history. If the men in your family have had prostate cancer or you carry the genes that increase the risk of breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2), you may be at increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Obesity. Obesity increases the risk of prostate cancer being advanced or more difficult to treat.
Keeping your prostate healthy
The most important thing you can do to stay healthy is to visit your doctor annually and have honest conversations with him/her about what is going on with your health. But, there are some other things you can do to increase your overall health and the health of your prostate.
- Eat a healthy diet. While there is no evidence that diet can prevent prostate cancer, a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with valuable vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants will contribute to your overall health. Leafy, green vegetables are a great source of these nutrients and you should avoid high-fat foods whenever possible.
- Exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Some studies have shown that men who exercise may have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer and as mentioned before, obesity increase the risk of more aggressive prostate cancer. Aim to be active most days in the week and ask for guidance from your doctor to help you achieve or maintain healthy weight.
- Enjoy the sun. While you should still use sunscreen to avoid skin cancer and damage from the sun, the sun is an important source of Vitamin D and not getting enough can increase your risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Prostate screening. Prostate cancer screening recommendations differ so it’s important to have a conversation with your doctor about what he or she recommends for you. However, it’s generally recommended that those with a higher risk start screening at age 40 and those with average risk start at age 55. Screenings can include a digital rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen blood test.
Dr. Daniel Mulligan is a Urologist with Fisher-Titus Executive Urology Specialists. He is board certified by the American Board of Urology and is fellowship trained in robotic urologic surgery from The Ohio State University. For appointments, call 419-668-4328 in Norwalk, 419-484-1701 in Bellevue, or 419-627-8771 in Sandusky.