Men’s Health Week: Prostate Cancer and Other Common Health Problems Among Indian Men Over 50; how to prevent them
By Dr Niti Raizada
Prostate cancer evokes the same emotion in a man as breast cancer in a woman. Men’s health over the age of 50 has a plethora of issues to tackle and prostate cancer is one of the major ones. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland just below the bladder neck that secretes a lubricating fluid for the passage of semen. When some of its cells undergo a malignant change, we call it prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer often runs in families, and if you have relatives with prostate cancer, you need to be extra vigilant. Symptoms can be varied, ranging from smoky-colored urine, frank blood in the urine or semen, difficulty urinating, and erectile dysfunction. Often, it is unfortunately ignored during the first weeks and months when it is perfectly curable. Regular screening for prostate cancer includes serum PSA (prostate-specific antigen), a blood test. If this is elevated, we suspect the possibility of prostate cancer, then further radiological examinations which could include an MRI and a Trucut biopsy of the prostate to look for a tissue diagnosis of cancer.
If detected early, before distant metastasis, the prognosis is good. The standard of care includes hormone therapy to lower the level of androgens, surgery with radical prostatectomy, and postoperative radiotherapy to the prostate bed possibly covering the pelvic region as well, are all part of the treatment modalities. However, what can men over 50 do to avoid getting prostate cancer? First, eat healthy.
Excess fat in the diet, obesity are risk factors. The benefits of losing weight are not only limited to reducing cardiovascular risk, but also help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Daily physical activity of at least half an hour of intense training. Stop smoking and consume less alcohol; eating healthy with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, soy, and being sexually active also helps prevent cancer. Medications used in the treatment of BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) reduce the risk of cancer, but on the other hand, if cancer accompanies those on these medications, it can be quite aggressive. Vitamin D supplements also help with prevention.
Men over 50 should take preventive measures against metabolic syndrome, ie obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Regular monitoring of BP, cholesterol, blood sugar and keeping them under control is essential. Thyroid hormone dosages, vitamin D and vitamin B12 levels should be monitored as osteoporosis (weakening of the bones) is another common problem related to aging. One can never underestimate the importance of staying physically active and fit, and taking supplements to correct or prevent deficiencies.
Obesity is a killer, it increases morbidity in addition to increasing the risks for all the diseases mentioned above. A proper diet and exercise plan cannot be overstated.
Prevention is not only cheaper, but far more desirable than contracting diseases and trying to cure them. Start now with a healthy lifestyle, preserve that unique body you have the only thing you can call yours.
(The author is Director, Medical Oncology & Hemato Oncology, Fortis Group of Hospitals, Richmond Road Bangalore. The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the position or official policy of FinancialExpress.com.)