HEALTH PLUS MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT
National Prostate Health Month (NPHM), also known as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, is observed every September by health experts, health advocates and individuals concerned with men’s prostate health and prostate cancer in North America.
Alarmingly, nearly 180,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in this year and roughly 30,000 men will die in the US, according to the American Cancer Society.
Data from the T&T Cancer Registry indicates that Prostate cancer accounts for 39% of cancer related deaths among men and is three times more common among Afro-Trinidadian men compared to Indo-Trinidadian men.
Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the prostate gland. This gland is a small walnut shaped gland in the pelvis of men. It is located next to the bladder and can be examined by a digital rectal exam (DRE). In its early stages, prostate cancer often has no symptoms.
Changing the narrative and nuances will save lives
Dr Satyendra Persaud, lecturer at UWI and the Urology Programme Director shares, “there are many barriers to detecting prostate cancer, more cultural and mindset as Caribbean men have concerns over the DRE and homophobic nuances.” “Only 10% of cancers detected locally were as a result of screening...we must get this number higher.” Many men put off getting a prostate exam, either because they think they are not old enough to have it or because they are afraid to have one. “But there’s no reason you should be afraid of a prostate exam and educating yourself about the exam can help you prepare for it.” If this narrative can be transformed, early screening will save lives.
He believes, “Afro- Trinidadian men should start at 40 as they have higher risk.”
Dr Persaud along with other urologists, advocate starting Prostate Cancer screening usually at the age of 40-50. This entails an annual DRE and blood test for prostate-specific antigens (PSA) stopping at 70-75.
In general, a DRE has no risks. Most men can return to their usual activities, immediately after having a DRE. The reason most urologists advocate DRE is that there are rare instances of aggressive cancers where the PSA is low and these would only be detected on the rectal exam.
However, the PSA blood test requires a little more preparation. PSA is a protein that helps liquefy semen. To guarantee an accurate test, a patient must not have a urine infection, must not have ejaculated for 48 hours before the test, must not have exercised heavily in the previous two days (or bicycle riding just before as this can raise PSA) nor had a prostate biopsy within the last six weeks.
What symptoms are red flags?
• Dull pain in the lower pelvic area
• Frequent urinating
• Trouble urinating, pain, burning, or weak urine flow
• Blood in the urine (Hematuria)
• Painful ejaculation
• Pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs
• Loss of appetite
• Loss of weight
• Bone pain
Any of these symptoms warrants a timely evaluation with a health care professional.
Dr Persaud emphasizes, “Even advanced cancers may have no symptoms; thus, screening is KEY to early detection and SAVING LIVES.”
Prostate Cancer and COVID-19
There are very few studies describing the characteristics of COVID-19 caused by the SARS-CoV-2 infections in patients with prostate cancer, these patients are likely to be more susceptible to COVID-19 than healthy people because of their immunosuppressed state. The epidemic is raging around the world, and prostate cancer is a significant risk factor for men infected with SARS-CoV-2. This knowledge can better maintain male health and guide clinicians to prevent COVID-19 in prostate cancer patients.
Should a prostate cancer patient get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Those who have or have had prostate cancer can and should be vaccinated. Several factors should be discussed with your treatment team, including your prostate cancer diagnosis, your current treatment plan, and how your immune system is functioning. Since the success of a vaccine depends on an immune system response, every situation is different and so too, every patient.
Can Prostate Cancer Be Prevented?
Embracing early screening is the top of the recommendations. Eating right, exercising and not smoking can be good for your health and help you avoid prostate cancer. Doing things that are "heart healthy" will also keep your prostate healthy.