September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September 28, 2022

Did you know that prostate cancer impacts 1 in 9 men during their lifetime? It is the most common cancer to affect men, excluding skin cancer. It’s also the leading cause of cancer deaths among men. Prostate cancer typically affects men over the age of 65, and for reasons not fully understood, it’s more prevalent among African American men. Research shows that African American men are 1.6 times more likely to develop prostate cancer, and 2.4 times more likely to die from it. Prostate cancer is also slow-growing, making it more treatable if caught early. This is why regular and consistent screening is so critical. In honor of National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, let’s dig into both screening and prevention. 

There are two types of tests used to screen for prostate cancer: a Prostate Specific Antigen test (PSA) and a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE). Your prostate produces a substance known as PSA, so a PSA test is designed to measure the amount of PSA in your blood. While PSA levels can be elevated by other conditions, it’s typically elevated among men with prostate cancer. The second test, a DRE, is a physical examination of your prostate. Your doctor will insert a gloved and lubricated finger into your rectum, allowing them to feel for any abnormalities around the prostate. Both options are extremely easy and simple – there’s really no good excuse for putting them off! 

Your risk level determines when you should start annual screening. As mentioned previously, African American men tend to be at a higher risk for prostate cancer. Genetic or family history also contributes to your risk level. If you’ve had at least one first-degree relative – a brother or father – diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 65, then this increases your risk. Here’s more information around who should start getting screened and when:

  • All men at average risk should begin annual screenings at age 50
  • Men who are at high risk, meaning they’re African American or have had one first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer, should begin screening at age 45
  • Men at an even higher risk, meaning they have more than one first-degree relative with , should start annual screenings when they turn 40. 

If cancer is detected, your treatment plan will be at the discretion of your doctor. Your medical history, PSA score, the grade of the cancer and amount present will all determine your treatment recommendations. For instance, if a small amount or low grade cancer is found, and there’s a small risk of it spreading, you’ll be put on active surveillance. Active surveillance means your PSA is checked more frequently every six months. You’ll also have repeat biopsies if your PSA levels are elevated. A more aggressive management plan is advised if the cancer appears to be growing. 

While there are clear risk factors for prostate cancer, lifestyle and diet have shown to have a notable impact on prevention and progression. There are two diets that have been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer: the Mediterranean diet and a plant-based diet. A Mediterranean diet is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, garlic, tomatoes (high in cancer-fighting lycopene!), olive oil and fish. A plant-based diet is also high in natural foods like veggies, fruit, lentils and legumes. Naturally-occurring fats found in nuts and avocados are another key component in a plant-based diet. Both diets avoid red meat, overly processed foods, heavy dairy and fried foods. In addition to eating a colorful diet, packed with fiber and natural fats, it’s also recommended that you get at least 30 minutes of movement most days of the week. You should also aim to drink at least 64 ounces of water throughout the day, staying adequately hydrated. 

If you have any other questions or would like to book an appointment with Dr. Shaw, please feel free to get in touch with us by contacting us on our website.