The big problem for men over 50

The Big Problem.

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

Although breast cancer gets the most attention in Australia, prostate cancer is usually the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia. In 2020, 16,741 new cases of prostate cancer were reported in Australia. Prostate cancer is the fourth leading cause of death among Australian blokes. It is estimated that 3,152 men died from prostate cancer last year.  However, around 95% of 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. In 2020 year, it’s estimated that 19,700 women will have been diagnosed and 3031 women, will die from it.

Your Risk

Now I hope these statistics get your attention and 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. Two of the four of us have had a prostate cancer diagnosis so far. Which shows we are worse than the statistics I quoted above!

Symptoms.

Unfortunately the symptoms of having an enlarged prostate and prostate cancer are not a lot different in the early stages. 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 include:-

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

Get it Checked TODAY.

So what can you do about it?  The first thing is to have your plumbing department checked out. That means visiting a GP and confessing your trouble with peeing. I was 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. The next time I visited, he told me 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. In addition it was on the PBS  and so it was cheaper. So I was on that medication for a few years 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. I went to the local hospital, and he (apparently) took a number of needle samples of my prostate. I was sleeping at the time. He sent the samples off to a pathologist 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 8 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.

That’s Not The End.

A couple of years later and with the plumbing not getting any better, the doctor said it was time for a rebore. So I had a TURP and that fixed the slow stream.  But twelve months later with my PSA going up slowly, the doctor concluded I should have another MRI and then a biopsy. This time they found some prostate cancer. The doctor told me my Gleeson score was 6. Which was a surprise since I didn’t know I had one!

A Gleeson score is given by the pathologist and is made up of two numbers added together and give a result between 5 and 10. The two numbers are determined by the way the cells look under the microscope. This tell you the level of risk from the cancer spreading and the aggressiveness of the cancer. If you have a score of 6 it means you, like me, have low level prostate cancer. Anything higher than this score will mean some treatment is required. That could be radiation, medication or surgery. 

At the moment then, I am required to have PSA tests every 6 months and the urologist is keeping an eye on the progress or otherwise of the cancer. If I get to age 75 with a low Gleeson score, the biopsies will stop because they have concluded the risk of prostate cancer killing me is very low.

So Go and Get a Check.

So go and get at least a PSA check at least.  Don’t let any more time pass. Start on that journey today.  Make an appointment with your GP and begin there. The urologist needs to have a number of PSA tests to get a baseline score to see if it’s increasing for not. My PSA is about 6. I have a friend who has a score of about 8 but he doesn’t have cancer – just a high PSA. So ring your doctor for an appointment today – you never know it might just save your life!

You can read more about this subject by searching the web for prostate cancer. But do make sure you are on reliable websites and not the ones selling snake oil or other “natural” medicines. They may be natural or may not be natural. Prostate cancer is also natural. They are unlikely to be effective since big Pharma has been testing these things for years. If they’d found something it would be patented by now!

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