“The five-year survival rate of regional prostate cancer, meaning that it has not spread to other organs, is almost 100 per cent,” says Dr Amgad Farouk, Consultant Urology at Medcare Hospital Al Safa. When it has metastasized however, this rate plummets to 31 per cent, making early detection and treatment that much more important.
As Movember, or the month that focuses on men’s health, ticks on, Medcare Hospital Al Safa focuses on raising awareness of one of the most common cancers that plague men, of the prostate. It affects 5 in 1,000 Emirati men, show recent studies.
“The prostate is a small organ, the size of a ping pong ball, located deep inside the groin, in front of the rectum. It is an important reproductive organ in men,” explains Dr Farouk.
There may be a number of reasons for a man to shy away from checks, especially since the most common symptoms - frequent urination and a weak urine flow - mimic that of urinary tract infections, but it is imperative that men over the age of 40 get routine checks. “Prostate cancer is much more common in men over the age of 50 years. This is why it is so important to start screening for prostate cancer from the age of 40 years,” he explains.
Other symptoms that may point to an issue are blood in urine or semen; erectile dysfunction; unexplained weight loss; and bone pain, if it has spread to the bones.
“If any of these symptoms persist, you should visit a doctor and seek medical help,” says Dr Farouk.
While this sort of cancer is very treatable, much about the condition remains a mystery: why does it happen, for instance, or why some men - notably those of African descent, US-based Prostate Cancer Foundation puts the number at one in six - are more prone to the ailment. Genetics is said to play a role; having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing this disease, says American Cancer Society.
Researchers have identified BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations as risk factors. “It is generally known that changes in the DNA of the cells in the prostate are what causes prostate cancer. However, what causes this change in the DNA is not fully known,” explains Dr Farouk.
There are however certain measures one can take to dim their chances of developing it. “The incidence of prostate cancer is definitely affected by lifestyle. Obese men have been found to be at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer than those at a healthy weight.”
And so, he points to certain preventive measures that have been known to help:
Eating a balanced diet
“You should incorporate fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fibre into your diet. It will not only help your prostate health but also your overall health,” he says.
Not depending on supplements
“Many supplements in the market guarantee a reduction in the risk of prostate cancer,” says Dr Farouk. “However, it is better to depend on the vitamins and minerals in your diet instead of taking these supplements. This is mainly because supplements are not regulated and may not have the nutrients they promise.”
“One of the main risk factors for prostate cancer is obesity, which is why it is important to manage it. Maintaining a healthy weight and performing exercise regularly will help you stay fit and possibly, reduce the risk of prostate cancer,” he says.
Cancer treatments vary - depending on the size of the tumour, which stage it is in and how aggressive its growth patterns are. “Prostate cancer, depending on the case, can require aggressive treatment to completely get rid of the tumour. However, aggressive treatment is often reserved for aggressive cases of prostate cancer and most patients do not require such an aggressive treatment,” explains Dr Farouk.
Prostate cancer diagnosis starts with a digital rectal exam (DRE), and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test to check for prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement or cancer.
If a DRE or PSA test detects an abnormality, further prostate cancer tests like ultrasound, prostate biopsy or MRI fusion are recommended to enable more-precise targeting for follow-up treatment.
What happens next?
Once diagnosed, treatment can include surgical resection of the tumour and prostate, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and even immunotherapy. “The treatment modalities used differ from patient to patient. Medcare Hospital Al Safa offers all of these services and much more, to ensure comprehensive care,” he adds.
But one must remember, says the Medcare online guide, that not everyone may need treatment; active surveillance works for many men. Secondly, prostate cancer can be cured if it is detected early and happens to be localised. The key then is to stay vigilant, trust your doctor - and show up for regular check-ups.
Throughout the month of Movember, Medcare Hospital Al Safa is running a special screening package to help men get checked for prostate cancer. You can consult with an urologist and have your PSA levels tested for just Dh350.