With prostate cancer deaths overtaking those of breast cancer – behind only lung and bowel cancer – the need to improve awareness and encourage conversation is more important than ever. Knowing the risk factors and warning signs of the condition is one part of helping increase survival rates, but so is getting men talking about how the condition is affecting them psychologically.
Risk Factors of Prostate Cancer
Although the exact reason for the development of prostate cancer is unknown, the factors that increase your risk are largely agreed upon. The majority of cases develop in men over the age of 50, so a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test around the age of 40 to catch potential signs of the condition early is strongly recommend.
In addition to age, ethnicity also seems to correlate to an increase in cases. Men of African and Caribbean background are deemed to be of higher risk, whereas Asian men seem to be of lower risk. The reasons for this is unknown, but the correlation is consistent. Nevertheless, regardless of ethnicity, a PSA blood test during middle age is still essential.
Finally, those who have had an immediate relative with the illness – father or brother – are judged to have a slightly higher risk.
Symptoms and Warning Signs of Prostate Cancer
Due to prostate cancer being incredibly slow in its development a person can go years without symptoms and can even go without treatment for some time. Nevertheless, catching cancer early is always an advantage when it comes to survival. This is what makes tests such as the PSA test so important as it can catch the illness before any symptoms arise.
However, there are potential symptoms that can show up that should be treated as red flags:
- Urinary incontinence
- Difficulty urinating
- Erectile dysfunction.
The reasons these symptoms occur is because the enlargement of the prostate has progressed to a point where it pushes up against the urethra. Other, less severe conditions can also cause this – such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPE) – so it doesn’t always indicate cancer, but these are still the most common warning signs and should be checked by a doctor.
How Conversation Can Help More Men Survive Prostate Cancer
Being aware of the risks and warnings associated with prostate cancer is just one part of improving the survival rate of the illness. The other part of improving the situation is by increasing awareness through openness and conversation. Taking the stigma away from the disease by talking more about it will help those who are concerned about their health to feel less intimated about getting checked for prostate cancer.
One of the challenges of engaging this conversation is to reduce the expectation on men to be able to deal with difficult emotional situations alone. Providing a situation where men who have had, have, or are at risk of having prostate cancer can comfortable open up about their experiences or concerns, could have the effect of getting others to pay more attention to their health. This can then result in more men getting an essential health check that could catch the illness early.
Encouraging the conversation around prostate cancer also has the potential for increasing funding for research and improving the success rate of treatment. The wider public will know more about the impact of the illness and the need to continue funding the fight against it. This, ultimately, can encourage greater public donation and improve the outlook for those who develop prostate cancer.