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September 11, 2020 CancerHealth & Wellness

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. To increase awareness and spread potentially life-saving information, we are going to explain some of the main causes, signs and symptoms, and treatment options for men with Prostate Cancer. Remember that the survival rate for Prostate Cancer is extremely high and that most men who contract it will not die from it. The most important thing to do is to educate yourself and/or the men in your family. Awareness is key! Although it can be scary to undergo screening or to even speak with your doctor about the potential risk of having Prostate Cancer, early detection and treatment have a much more favorable outcome than allowing cancer to progress. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Prostate Cancer is the second most common form of cancer among men in the United States. It is second only to non-melanoma skin cancer and is the fifth leading cause of death worldwide. While it may seem surprising that there are more cases of Prostate Cancer in developed countries, risk factors for the disease include overall health, diet, weight, and exercise. Considering the rate of obesity, the mass consumption of fast food and junk food, and the sedentary lifestyle primarily found in the first world, perhaps the prevalence of Prostate Cancer here isn’t so surprising after all. Genetics also have a heavy hand in determining a person’s potential risk. Studies have shown that men of African descent (in the Americas, the Caribbean, and in Europe) possess a genetic disposition that makes them more prone to both developing prostate cancer, and also at a younger age than men of other races.

What is the Cause of Prostate Cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, “Prostate Cancer is caused by changes in the DNA of a normal prostate cell.” It can be caused by DNA mutations or other changes that can lead to the overgrowth of cells. These changes, or mutations, can be inherited from generation to generation (which causes hereditary cancer), or they can be acquired throughout a man’s lifetime. While certain risk factors, such as age, race, and genetics cannot be controlled or mitigated, there are things that you can do to lower your risk.

In studies conducted by the American Cancer Society, obese and overweight men were found to be at more risk of developing prostate cancer. They are also more prone to develop advanced prostate cancer which patients are less likely to survive. In order to mitigate this risk factor, men are advised to both maintain an adequate amount of physical activity, and to adhere to a healthy diet. Several studies have also linked a higher risk of prostate cancer with over-consumption of dairy products and calcium. It is important to eat a balanced diet, full of nutrient-dense foods, and dietary fiber. Avoid consuming sugars, processed foods, and “empty” calories.

Related:
How to Help the Senior in Your Life Make Healthy Food Choices

Signs & Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Perhaps the scariest thing about Prostate Cancer is that more often than not, it can go completely undetected without a formal screening by a medical professional. For that reason, it is important to talk with your doctor about when and how often you need to be screened. That being said, in the rare cases where symptoms are apparent, they may resemble those of a urinary tract infection (UTI).

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, they may include the following:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night, and sometimes urgently
  • Difficulty starting or holding back urination
  • Weak, dribbling, or interrupted flow of urine
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Difficulty having an erection
  • A decrease in the amount of fluid ejaculated
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Pressure or pain in the rectum
  • Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, pelvis, or thighs.

If you or any of the men in your family are experiencing these symptoms, be sure to speak with your doctor as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment of Prostate Cancer can save lives.

Prostate Cancer Treatment

You may be wondering what treatment options are available and what they entail. The treatment and prognosis (AKA, chance of recovery) are dependent upon a few factors. The first determining factor is what stage of cancer the patient is in. Early stages are obviously much easier to treat and eradicate from the body. In cases where the cancerous cells have vastly multiplied and spread to other parts of the body (by way of tissue, the lymph system, or blood), treatment becomes more intense or may not even be possible. Treatment options will also depend on the age of the patient and whether the cancer is a new diagnosis or is recurring. It may be more difficult to treat Prostate Cancer for a second or third time.

The main treatments for Prostate Cancer include surveillance, surgery, radiation therapy or radiopharmaceutical therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or bisphosphonate therapy. The proper mode of treatment will be determined by a healthcare professional and will depend on the patient’s specific set of circumstances. Clinical trials for new treatments are underway. They include cryosurgery, high-intensity-focused ultrasound therapy, proton beam radiation therapy, and photodynamic therapy. Many of the available treatments may cause side effects. It is important to ask your doctor about any potential complications.

Remember, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. There is a very high survival rate (nearly 100% of 5-year Localized and Regional cases). All SEER stages combined boast a promising 98% survival rate. The most important things you can do to mitigate your risk are to ask your doctor for regular screenings and to maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan. The sooner Prostate Cancer is detected, the greater the chances are of survival.


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October 25, 2019 Cancer

 “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” marked in countries across the world every October, is a month of educational and fundraising events orchestrated to promote increased awareness and support of the disease, as well as raising funds for further research. While there are on-going advancements in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer, much work remains to be done to further promote the importance of understanding personal risk and regular screenings for early detection.  

The two most significant risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older. Women in the United States have a 12% lifetime risk of being diagnosed with the disease. It becomes much more prevalent in women aged 60 and older, making it the second-most common form of cancer among women. The good news is, with early detection, a 5-year relative survival rate can be as high as 98%.

As women approach their senior years, there seems to be a tendency to drop regular screening as a preventative measure. They may no longer be “invited” to participate in yearly screenings, or they may feel mammograms are no longer necessary at an older age.

While the statistics on breast cancer are relatively uniform, the recommendations for screenings are ambiguous. According to The American Cancer Society, testing should begin at the age of 45 and continue yearly as long as you are healthy. Another approach is that of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommending mammograms begin at the age of 50 and continue every two years until the age of 74. 

It is essential for all women, including women who are aging, to educate themselves in knowing the risk factors for the disease and what preventive measures can be taken to ensure their best “breast health.” With this knowledge, you are in a better position to schedule screenings that may not fall within the “recommended” schedule should symptoms develop. So, how can you or your loved one remain cancer-free or beat the odds if they are diagnosed? Like many other diseases, lifestyle has a significant impact on breast cancer susceptibility.

Breast Cancer Prevention

Maintain a Healthy Diet: Eat your fruits and vegetables. Harvard researchers found that women who ate foods with high carotenoid levels had a much lower risk of breast cancer than those who didn’t.

Keep Moving: Obesity is a risk factor. Current guidelines recommend exercising for at least 150 minutes a week. Recent studies have shown that postmenopausal women who are twice as active (at least 300 minutes a week or 45 minutes a day) are more successful at reducing fat levels linked to breast cancer later in life.

Don’t Smoke: Smoking increases an older woman’s (particularly pre-menopausal women) chances of acquiring health conditions such as stroke, heart disease, and several cancers, including breast cancer. Secondary smoke is a consideration as well, so ask smokers to light up outside.

Limit Alcohol Consumption: The general recommendation is to limit the use of alcohol to one drink a day, as even small amounts can increase risks.

Beware of Hormone Therapy (HT): Hormone therapy was once widely prescribed as a method of reducing hot flashes for women during menopause. Research has identified a relationship between these medications and risk factors in heart disease and breast cancer. Physicians today are more likely to prescribe smaller doses for short periods. Speak with your physician about the risks and benefits for you.

Know Your Breast Cancer Risk Factors

There are some factors that we cannot control, like age, sex, or family history. Knowing which factors apply to you will help you understand your risks. The following indicators increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. Do keep in mind that most women may have one or two of the risk factors and never develop breast cancer.

  • Age 60 years or older
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • First menstrual period before the age of 12
  • Menopause at the age of 55 or older
  • First childbirth after 35
  • No children
  • Dense breasts
  • Taking hormone therapy for symptoms of menopause
  • Obesity

Recognize The Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Many women believe that changes in their bodies are to be expected and are a natural part of aging. This is true, to an extent. However, this belief results in many illnesses, including breast cancer, which often goes undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated. The simple rule is not to ignore any symptoms because you feel they are “insignificant” or a “normal” part of aging. 

It is recommended that women of all ages perform self-examinations. It is essential to inspect the breasts physically and visually every month. Self-exams allow the opportunity to be familiar with your own body and the ability to recognize any changes should they occur. If you or your loved one is not comfortable or unable to do this, then a regularly scheduled breast exam with a physician should be maintained. Some signs and symptoms are:

  • A lump on the breast
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Swelling and soreness
  • Redness of the skin
  • Skin dimpling
  • Swelling in the underarm

If you have noticed any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor or let a caregiver know you have observed these changes so the appropriate care can be provided.

Treatment For Older Women

Older women may have particular challenges and concerns around breast cancer treatment, including whether or not to even have them. Breast cancer treatment has vastly improved over the last 30 years, in their effectiveness and the management of side effects; however, treatment can be tricky, even life-threatening for some.

Treatment for diagnosed breast cancer can take many approaches depending on the stage of the disease. Radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy are the most common forms of treatment. Surgery for some will be recommended in the form of a lumpectomy or mastectomy, depending on how aggressive the cancer may be.

The first thing to consider is the overall health of the prospective patient. Some treatments are easier on the body than others. For a woman who has advanced congestive heart failure, diabetes, or is exceptionally frail, treatments and side effects should be carefully considered. An active and relatively healthy 80-year-old may tolerate surgery or chemotherapy and enjoy many more years of life.

Related:
How To Support A Loved One With A Terminal Illness

Some of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself, your daughters, and granddaughters are to stay vigilant regarding breast cancer awareness and recommended screenings for early detection as you get older. A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. It is essential for all women to know their family history regarding breast cancer and to discuss this history when planning appropriate screening schedules.


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