When it comes to women’s health, regular checks for strange lumps and bumps are widely promoted, but what about men’s health? According to Prostate Cancer UK, prostate cancer now kills more people than breast cancer with about 1 in 8 men being affected at some point in their lives. However, most of these go undetected and untreated until it’s too late. This is largely due to being unspoken of and underfunded in research and screening.
This Movember, we wanted to find out why healthy communication around men’s health is so important, and how to spot signs of prostate cancer to catch it early on. So we spoke to Urologist-Andrologist-Sexual Medicine Expert Dr. Mafe Peraza Godoy for some expert insight.
Hi Dr. Mafe, it’s a pleasure chatting with you. What are the signs of prostate cancer in men that we should be looking out for, either in yourself or your partner?
When it comes to spotting signs of prostate cancer, there are actually no specific symptoms and any problems can be confused with benign prostatic growth symptoms which include:
- Poor stream or straining when urinating
- Urinary incontinence, frequent urination
- Urinary retention, difficulty urinating
- Overflow incontinence
- Increased frequency of urination during day or/and night, urgency, which medical doctors known as LUTS (lower urinary obstructive symptoms).
However, if you do notice any of these symptoms, make sure to get those checked out by your doctor or urologist. If you notice them in a partner, then open up a conversation of how important their health and wellbeing is.
For testicular cancer, this can be a finding after consulting for pain or infection of the testicle. these would be the main symptoms to consult. However, it is not necessarily considered cancer as the first option.
So how can you actually check for signs of prostate cancer?
It is good to know that there is a lot of debate about the screening for prostate cancer and it is performed mainly by family doctor or urologist, it will of course depend on where the man resides.
Early screening of prostate cancer has long been a controversial topic for urologists and oncologists alike.
On the one hand it can detect cancer while it can still be treated, but on the other hand, it also risks over-treatment and a subsequent decline in patients’ quality of life.
However, Movember calls to prevention by promoting regular check-ups, especially after the age of 50. If a relative (grandfather, father, uncle or brother) has had prostate cancer, it is advised to get checked at 40 years old.
Regarding testicular cancer, it is actually found more commonly in younger men, so self-examination is the most important “self-action.” If you notice any change in consistency, color, size and/or pain, do go to the doctor as soon as possible.
Prostate Cancer UK explains there are two ways to test for prostate cancer.
- A PSA test – a blood test for levels of a prostate-specific antigen – can suggest you have a problem with your prostate, though not necessarily cancer.
- A DRE (digital rectal examination) where the doctor or nurse will feel the prostate through the rectum.
Can deaths from prostate cancer be reduced with early diagnosis?
In the past, most men with localised prostate cancer were not identified and the window of curability closed before treatment could be given. Most of these patients were diagnosed with advanced disease which was curable.
According to the James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute, today 70% of men who are identified through sequential PSA screening are found to have localized prostate cancer. With more funding and improvements in the use of PSA testing early noninvasive diagnosis are increasingly possible and open up that window of curability.
Is there any evidence that prostate massage can help reduce risk of prostate cancer?
Back in 2004, Harvard Medical school found that ejaculation frequency was associated with reducing risk of cancer by 22%. However, there is no further scientific evidence on this. Inconsistent publications mention that prostate massage can reduce risk, but to date, it cannot be indicated that it is definitive. There is no medical indication for it or relation with lower the risk for any cancer.
It is vital that the correct information is disseminated, especially when it comes to prostate health. Aside from prostate cancer, massaging or vibrating the perineum and the prostate can in fact alleviate painful symptoms of other prostate problems including prostatitis and an enlarged prostate.
Could you please tell us a bit about Movember & why talking about men’s health is so important?
Movember is installed progressively to raise awareness about male health specifically about prostate and testicular cancer.
Although very little is said about this and may be better known about gender inequality with women’s disadvantage in many aspects, it is important to take into account that traditionally, the health of men has been limited to manage the crisis, that is, when they are ill or feel really bad to ask for help.
Men tend to ignore prevention or “basic maintenance” until a medical problem forces them to look for help.
Society exerts these expectations and mentality from men. Many men assume the most difficult and life-threatening tasks without question. They are taught to hide or even ignore their concerns.
Understandably men are reluctant to talk about these concerns. Society has conditioned them to remain silent in the face of anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. At this time, they do not totally understand that opening up will benefit them.
Movember is a movement that allows men to be vulnerable and aware about diseases specifically related to them for at least a month, and hopefully much longer!
Movember allows the possibility for men to at least recognise that asking questions about their health and care will save their lives.
Thank you so much for chatting with us on spotting the signs of prostate cancer and how important talking about men’s health really is. Lest we forget, health routines can be super pleasurable too, so look after your sexual wellbeing.