In men, the walnut-sized prostate gland manufactures semen to transport sperm. It is located under the bladder and envelops the upper portion of the urethra. Though prostate cancer is extraordinarily common in American men (roughly 230,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2013), the mortality rate is relatively low. Five, ten, and fifteen-year survival rates for prostate cancer are all above 90%.
This is not to say that prostate cancer is not a serious illness. Prostate cancer typically grows much more slowly than other types of cancers, which enhances the probability of detection at an early stage of development. This means that prostate cancer metastasizes slowly as well, reducing the probability that it will have spread throughout the body (and hence become very difficult to treat) by the time it is caught. Additionally, prostate cancer primarily affects older men, with approximately six out of every ten cases diagnosed in men over the age of 65.
Treatment for prostate cancer, much like many other types of cancer treatment, begins with a preventive lifestyle. Poor nutrition, poor weight management, and an inactive lifestyle are all contributing factors for developing a variety of cancers, prostate cancer among them. Medical research indicates that maintaining a proper weight, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly reduces the incidence of many cancers. Beyond purely physiological solutions, it is also worth noting that psychological stress can be a contributing factor to developing cancer. While the evidence that psychological stress directly causes cancer is weak, stress hormones can facilitate other behaviors (overeating, depression / inactivity, smoking) that contribute to developing cancer.
What about patients who have already been diagnosed? Your physician will most likely recommend that you make alterations to your diet and physical activity similar to those already shown, but chances are you will need other types of treatment as well. New medical research indicates specific genes may determine whether an individual’s prostate cancer is fast-growing. Testing for these genes provides physicians with the information they need to prescribe a course of cancer treatment that includes frequent checkups, thereby increasing the chances of catching the cancer early. Medicare (a socialized form of health insurance available to all US citizens over the age of 65) also provides free PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) screening once every 12 months for seniors, although there is some debate over the test’s necessity, given prostate cancer’s slow growth rates. Patients are advised to communicate honestly with their physicians regarding eating habits and physical activity.