Prostate cancer – individual approach to treatment needed

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What is it?

The prostate is a small gland in men that is found below the bladder near the rectum. It is part of the male reproductive system. Typically it is about the size of a walnut but can grow as men age. This may cause problems but is not always a sign of cancer.

Prostate cancer happens when abnormal cells develop in the prostate. These cells can multiply and may spread to other parts of the body. This type of cancer grows relatively slowly and it can take years for symptoms to develop. On the other hand, more serious cases can spread quickly and be fatal.

As a result of Australia’s ageing population it is estimated that the number of deaths attributed to prostate cancer will double to more than 6,000 by 2030.2 Medical practitioners are also recognising the role of mental health support in developing a holistic approach to care.2

Warning signs

Men may live symptom-free during the early stages of prostate cancer. Warning signs include feeling a frequent/sudden need to urinate, finding it difficult to urinate or poor urine flow, discomfort when urinating, blood in the urine or semen and pain in the lower back, upper thighs or hips. These symptoms should be checked out by a doctor.1 As with other forms of cancer, early diagnosis is key.

Risk factors

The two most strongly linked risk factors are age and family history.1 Prostate cancer is an age-dependent disease – the risk of developing prostate cancer increases from one in seven men by age 75, to one in five by age 85. Men can also inherit genes that increase the risk of developing prostate cancer. Having a first degree male relative with prostate cancer increases your chance of developing it, as does a male relative who was diagnosed at a young age.

Other risks that are linked to developing prostate cancer include diet and lifestyle factors.1 There is some evidence to suggest that eating too much processed meat or food that is high in fat can increase the risk. As with so many other health-related conditions these days, certain lifestyle factors can impact our health. Prostate cancer is no different therefore it pays to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.

Protect yourself: Minimise risk

• The first step to protect yourself against prostate cancer is to understand your risk factors.
• Know your family history – find out if any male relatives have been previously diagnosed.
• Men aged between 50-70 years old may want to consult their doctor about having a relevant test as part of their annual health check.
• The Prostate Cancer Foundation recommends following a nutritious, healthy diet and exercising for at least 30 minutes per day.1
• Knowing your risk, consider whether you have adequate insurance (e.g., life, trauma, total & permanent disability, income protection) to protect what you value most in life.


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