Ghana: The Prostate Priority

(file photo).
13 December 2019

Our body has a whole network of glands that produces hormones and help cells communicate amongst themselves. It supports them in carrying out competent bodily activities such as growth, development, metabolism, reproduction and so on. Prostate is a walnut-shaped gland in the pelvis of men. It wraps around the male urethra and is situated below the bladder. It churns out a fluid that carries semen and aids in the nourishment and transportation of sperms.

There has been a perpetual conundrum around cancer with ongoing researches striving to decode it. Due to limited information on cancer's origin, preventable actions are limited. All we know is that a few cells in our body go haywire and start dividing abnormally. Since the prostate gland is found in the male reproductive system, it is men who are at the risk of prostate cancer. It is one of the leading causes of mortality in men, more commonly, men over the age of 50.

Prostate cancer deceitfully shows the symptoms when it is in the advanced stages. Therefore, one must be watchful of one's own body and get regular medical examinations done to protect oneself because screening can detect changes that can indicate the advent of cancer. Screening usually involves a test that measures levels of PSA (prostate specific antigen) in the blood. High levels suggest that cancer maybe present.

Warning signs for prostate cancer are: trouble urinating or ejaculating, frequent urination, blood in semen, uneasiness in pelvic area, trouble keeping erection, weak flow of urine or trickling urine once you're done. Advanced symptoms include; weight loss, fatigue, backache, changes in bowel habits, edema (swelling in the legs/feet), bone fracture or bone pain, especially in the hips, thighs or shoulders. A few of these indicators may also arise due to some other illnesses like diabetes, arthritis or a heart problem. Nonetheless, it's best to get yourself examined to know the nature of the disease you're dealing with.

Many symptoms of early stages of the prostate cancer maybe caused by benign (noncancerous) conditions of the prostate, infection in the prostate gland or urinary system. Enlargement of the prostate called BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), acute and chronic infections of the prostate which can be bacterial or non-bacterial (acute and chronic prostatitis).

Manageable complications of the prostate: If your symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland are mild and not particularly bothersome, your doctor will recommend a conservative approach called watchful waiting or active surveillance. It's also an option for men with more bothersome symptoms if they have not yet developed major complications of BPH such as kidney problems, urinary retention (a condition in which your bladder doesn't empty completely even if it's full and you often feel like you really have to urinate), or repeated urinary tract infections. If the symptoms worsen then medications are prescribed and upon further complications such as recurrent urinary retention, surgery is advisable.

Some men with an enlarged prostate gland, eventually start to experience urinary incontinence i.e. the involuntary discharge of urine due to overactive bladder. Hereby, the bladder muscles contract on their own, with little warning. This results in a powerful urge to urinate. Urinary incontinence can significantly impair a man's quality of life. It may become very hard to sit through a lengthy meeting. Aisle seats become a necessity so there's a quick escape to the bathroom. It may become necessary to wear absorbent pads to avoid accidents.

Implementing certain lifestyle and behavioral changes may assist remarkably: shun drinking fluids in the evening, minimize consumption of carbonated/caffeinated drinks, reduce/eliminate alcohol, drink only when thirsty and in smaller quantities. The faster your bladder fills, the more likely you are to feel urgency to urinate. Urinate when you first get the urge. Go to the bathroom on a timed schedule, even if you don't feel a need to go. When you go to the bathroom, take the time to empty your bladder completely. This will reduce the need for subsequent trips to the toilet.

Factors contributing to prostate cancer are: old age, obesity, family history of prostate cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, those with a family history of breast cancer are also susceptible to prostate cancer. Certain tests that can help detecting prostate cancer are: digital rectal exam, prostate-specific antigen test, trans-rectal ultrasound and prostate biopsy. In an instance, wherein a doctor suspects the presence of prostate cancer and needs to determine how far it has spread, few imaging tests maybe recommended; bone scan, ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scan. The specialists involved in the diagnosis of prostate cancer are the urologists. They'd recommend which test is most applicable to an individual case instead of burdening the patient with all of them. Usually it's the urologist, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist who work together in a multidisciplinary team to review a case and formulate a treatment plan.

Treatments involve: radiation therapy, hormone therapy, removal of prostate gland, freezing prostate tissue, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Alternative actions include: art therapy, dance therapy, exercise, music therapy, support groups and meditation. Fortunately, men whose prostate cancer is detected at an early stage may not need any treatment, except for regular checkups and continuous scrutiny. Recently, there have been success stories of men being cured of prostate cancer - wherein the tumor was deprived of testosterone. It's because according to some studies, prostate cancer fuels itself on testosterone. Therefore, shortage of testosterone weakened the effect of cancer. However, in some prostate cancer patients an overdose of testosterone showed the same results.

Writer's note: there's no denying the fact that the real wealth is good health. It is our everyday choices that makes us or break us, choose yourself, your health. Stay vigilant of the home you live in that is your body.

-Parul Budhraja Khanna

Entrepreneurial Biotechnologist with a strong passion for quality healthcare, patient advocacy & patient education.

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