Each month brings us a unique opportunity to raise awareness about certain topics -sharing about what the topics is, how it can impact us and how we can normalize conversations on this topic as a simple way of raising awareness and education. September has many different causes, issues, celebrations and diseases to highlight. This week in particular is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Week. While you may not have to worry about this yourself chances are someone you know, love, work with or associate with may. Let’s take a look at what prostate cancer is and how we can help to raise awareness about this all too common disease.
Prostate cancer may be more common than you think. According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the US, while non-melanoma skin cancer comes in at number one. They say, “It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among men of all races and Hispanic origin populations.” The CDC also reports, “In 2017, the latest year for which incidence data are available, in the United States, 1,701,315 new cases of cancer were reported, and 599,099 people died of cancer. For every 100,000 people, 438 new cancer cases were reported, and 153 people died of cancer…Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease. One of every four deaths in the United States is due to cancer.” With a disease this fierce and widespread its important we learn more, talk more and raise awareness. Or as the Prostate Cancer Foundation says, “It’s Time To Man Up.”
Prostate Cancer is cancer that will affect 1 in 8 men in their lifetime. What is the prostate exactly? The prostate is typically a walnut-sized organ that makes up part of the male reproductive system, it is made up of two “lobes” with a right and left side. Namely, the prostate is responsible for adding fluid and nutrients to sperm and is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. While some men will show no symptoms of prostate cancer, some will have symptoms that may or may not include: difficulty urinating, urgent/frequent need to urinate, (especially at night), burning or pain when urinating, Inability to urinate or difficulty starting or stopping urine flow, painful ejaculation, blood in their urine or semen among other symptoms. Yet, because symptoms are not always present or not always as obvious, it is suggested that men start to have a regular prostate exam and/or blood test screening with their physician around age 40 although that can vary depending on concerns or family history. These exams certainly help with early prevention and these preventive screenings also help to form a baseline with your physician.
While any cancer diagnosis is serious and a cause for concern, not all outcomes are the same. One should be aware and sensitive to the fact that anyone who hears they have cancer will face the emotional rollercoaster of thoughts and feelings, but the outlook doesn’t always mean devastation. Like many cancers, a prostate cancer diagnosis can come in one of four stages: Stage I, Stage II, Stage III or Stage IV. After this diagnosis there will be other tests to see if cancer cells have spread within not only the prostate but to other parts of the body. These tests are what help to determine the stage of cancer, other testing needed and the course of action towards recovery.
The good news is that prostate cancer can be treated when found in the early stages. The bad news is, even after successful treatment, cancer cells can reappear in the prostate or other areas of the body. When it comes to treatment science is always changing and new opportunities for treatment and care are too. Some of the most common ones we found shared by the CDC and cancer.gov suggest are watchful surveillance, radiation, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery and other therapies and medications. While others may opt to join in on clinical research and medical research studies.
When it comes to the prognosis for outcomes, Johns Hopkins University says, “In general, the earlier prostate cancer is caught, the more likely it is for a man to get successful treatment and remain disease-free. The overall prognosis for prostate cancer is among the best of all cancers.” Again, we in no way want to lessen the seriousness of the disease and the impact it has on the person, their family and beyond. While the outlook is mostly good for those with prostate cancer, late diagnosis and cancer that has spread far beyond the prostate can also steal someone’s life. Therefore, it is so important to make sure you are keeping up to date with your preventive visits and always reaching out to your healthcare professionals when you experience symptoms that don’t seem right. It’s always better to call in or make an appointment to find out you are ok, than to sweep it under the rug to find out later it was much more serious than you thought.
Sometimes we think, cancer is cancer, which may be true for some, but it’s a serious and life-changing event that all too many of us will face and/or someone we love and care for will face. One in eight men will hear the diagnosis, “You have prostate cancer.” In our opinion, that’s too many! So together we can raise awareness by speaking out about prostate cancer, advocating for research in prevention and treatment and normalizing the conversations about preventive healthcare with those around us. One of the advocacy sites uses the slogan, “It’s time to man up” to prostate cancer. Yet we truly believe that no matter how you identify, you can speak up and support the cause. We do believe the time is now for everyone to show up and speak out for prostate cancer awareness!
Director of The Wellness Center