Blush: Prostates

So far we have received almost three digits worth of questions, but I’m greedy, and I want more! Ask us your anonymous questions here!

Have you noticed lately that men have been growing mustaches and/or beards for Movember this month? My dad is growing a beard to support a friend, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Movember - grow a mustache or beard to support Prostate Cancer research. Image from www.francoischarron.com/
Movember – grow a mustache or beard to support Prostate Cancer research. Image from www.francoischarron.com/

Questions:

What is a prostate? Should I be worried about prostate cancer?

Answers:

A prostate is a smallish gland located, in biological males, in between the bladder and the penis. I found this anatomy slider incredibly useful in understanding where everything is. (Link is not particularly safe for work – there is a flaccid penis.) It surrounds the urethra, and during ejaculation, it releases a nourishing and protective fluid that helps the sperm travel through the urethra.

Prostate cancer is like any other cancer; cells that should replenish themselves normally go haywire and reproduce themselves so quickly (and abnormally) that they end up causing a tumour. These cells will also eventually travel to other parts of the body, and this is when it gets difficult to treat.

Should I be worried about it happening to me?

If you’re biologically female, no. If you’re biologically male, well, that’s why you should get tested by your doctor regularly. As with PAP tests checking for cervical cancer for people with a cervix, people with a prostate should be tested for prostate cancer.

There  are some things that will make you more likely to get prostate cancer (each type of cancer has the typical causes list: mesothelioma resources, breast cancer predisposition, etc). The older you are (over 50), the more likely you are to get it. Having family history of this type of cancer means you are more likely to get it (check also: Mesothelioma Explained). And, apparently, if you are ethnically African or Caribbean. Overweight, or not having a healthy diet, may also contribute (although I feel like doctors say that for everything).

Signs and Symptoms

“Common signs and symptoms of prostate cancer may include:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Burning or pain when urinating
  • Inability to urinate or difficulty starting or stopping urine flow
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in the urine or semen

Symptoms are not always present especially in the early stages of prostate cancer. If detected and treated in its earliest stages (when cells are only in the prostate), your chances of survival are greatly increased. Early detection is key.” (Source quoted directly, due to the importance of the topic.)

What sort of testing will I have to go through?

This really depends on your doctor, but there are three main testing methods that might be used.

  1. Digital Rectal Exam – This is exactly what it sounds like. Your doctor will lube up his finger and insert it into the anus. He will feel for abnormalities on the surface of the prostate.
  2. PSA Blood Test – The blood test will look for a protein that only the prostate makes in your blood.
  3. Biopsy – This is only done if the doctor finds an abnormality in previous tests. They will refer you to a urologist to take a sample of the prostate to determine if the abnormality is, in fact, cancerous.

Final Thoughts

Biologically male or female, prostate cancer can affect you, either directly or indirectly. Tell the men in your life (or yourself, if you are male) to talk to their doctors about getting tested. Mild discomfort for a few minutes could save their (or your) lives. And if you’re reading this, I care about you. So please, talk to your doctor about prostate cancer!


References

http://www.webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/picture-of-the-prostate
http://www.prostatecancer.ca/prostate-cancer#.Vkvjl36rTIV
https://ca.movember.com/mens-health/prostate-cancer