The big problem for men over 50

There is a big problem that effects a lot of men over 50 years of age in Australia. I know that’s true because statistics tell us that around 25% of all men will share the same problem. If you know three other blokes and they don’t have this problem, then that means it’s probably you!  What is that problem? Prostate cancer.

Although breast cancer gets the most attention in Australia, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer). In 2013, 19,233 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in Australia and prostate cancer is the fourth leading cause of death among Australian blokes. It is expected that there will be 3,452 deaths from prostate cancer this year.  However, around 9 in 10 men diagnosed with prostate cancer will survive 5 years or more from when the diagnosis is made. This is higher than for all cancers  which is around 65% and it includes cases where have treatments have been successful. Compared to breast cancer the numbers are surprisingly similar. This year, it’s estimated that 17,700 women will be diagnosed and 3114, mostly women, will die from it.

Now I’ve written that, quoting various reliable websites, to get your attention and possibly scare you a bit. If you are over 50 then the risk of you getting prostate cancer increases rapidly over the next few years. The cancer council says the risk is increased by:-

  • family history of prostate, breast or ovarian cancer
  • a diet high in fats and low in fresh fruit and vegetables
  • men of African descent are at higher risk than men of European or Asian descent
  •  high testosterone levels.

That probably doesn’t make you feel any better since if you are a typical Aussie bloke, the second line describes your diet pretty well. My three brothers have all had enlarged prostate issues but only one of the four of us has had prostate cancer so far. Which just proves the statistics above! Unfortunately the symptoms of having an enlarged prostate and prostate cancer may not be a lot different in the early stages. Though as the disease progresses, it seems to move to the bones, and that means significantly increased pain, weight loss and other symptoms. The cancer council goes on to say the symptoms of early stage cancer can include:-

  • frequent urination, particularly at night
  • pain on urination
  • blood in the urine
  • a weak stream.

So what can you do about it?  The first thing is to have things in your plumbing department checked out. That means visiting a GP and confessing your trouble with peeing. I have been slowing down for years and that territory comes with an urgency as well. So I went to the GP and confessed.  He did a PSA blood test then a week or so later did prostate check, using a glove and a finger. I will leave it to your imagination where he put his finger.  He concluded my prostate was enlarged but because it was smooth and had no lumps, he thought I probably didn’t have cancer. But he then referred me to a Urologist to make sure. The Urologist did exactly the same test.  It’s a bit uncomfortable, but I managed to sit back down after the test each time and you will too!

He also offered a medication that takes away the urgency and give me more control over where and when things happen. The first medication wasn’t on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and so cost about $60 per month. But the next time I visited, he suggested there was another medication containing the same in ingredient as the first one, as well as another medications. This one not only  seemed to have better long term prospects in that its effectiveness did not diminish over the long term but it was on the PBS (thus cheaper) as well. So I’ve been on that medication for a few years now and the effect seems to be the same.

About 6 months or so after my first visit, the urologist, decided I should have a biopsy since the finger test was not conclusive and my PSA was a bit high. So, I went to the local hospital, and he took a number of needle samples of my prostate and sent them off to a microbiologist to check the samples for cancer.  They turned out to be clear, but the urologist suggested I should keep coming because my PSA was still a bit high. I told him, I had read the PSA was not a very accurate test anyway, but he said – “it’s better than nothing.” So I’ve been visiting him for about 4 years now.

A year or so after the first biopsy, he suggested I may benefit from a MRI since the cancer (if any) may be on the other side of the prostate from where the sample and finger test were performed and my PSA hadn’t decreased significantly.  So they did an MRI. Again they concluded I was free of cancer.

At the moment, then, I seem to be free of cancer but you never know, it could still come on since with every year that passes I have an increased risk – and so do you.  So don’t let any more time pass. Start on that journey today.  Make an appointment with your GP and begin there. You never know it might just save your life!

You can read more about this subject by Googling but do make sure you are on reliable websites and not the ones selling snake oil or other “natural” medicines. They may be natural – though that’s debatable a lot of the time – but they are very unlikely to be effective since big Pharma has been testing these things for years and if they found something it would be patented by now!

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