Prostate cancer and your man

Prostate cancer isn’t the sexiest topic, but discussing your man’s health could give him the best fighting chance.

Movember males

It’s that time of year again when we are seeing some serious stubble hang around long enough to turn into sizeable handlebars. It’s Movember!

All the joking aside, there is a serious side to what Movember means (this year it is supporting prostate cancer and male mental health). It also serves as a timely reminder that prostate cancer is an issue that affects couples just as much as individuals.

The local scene

Alarmingly, around 20,000 men are diagnosed locally each year and more than 3,000 will die from the cancer. In comparison, the National Breast Cancer Foundation estimates around 14,600 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012.

The key message about prostate cancer, however, is that it is very treatable. Recently the Victorian Prostate Cancer Registry released some new stats on local treatments and, according to Associate Professor Mark Frydenberg, almost half (42 per cent) of the men diagnosed are being treated with monitoring (active surveillance) rather than surgery.

“Not all prostate cancer tumours are the same — we know there are some that are very aggressive that require immediate treatment, but others can be very slow growing and can be safely watched for years without any need for intervention,” A/Prof Frydenberg said.

What is it?

The prostate (an organ) is part of the male reproductive system and its main job is to protect and enrich sperm. When cancer occurs (the build up of irregular cells) swelling or a tumour may form.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) says some men might experience symptoms that are similar to other prostate-related conditions.

“In the early stages of prostate cancer, there may be no symptoms at all. As prostate cancer develops, symptoms can include the need to urinate frequently, particularly at night, sudden urges to urinate, difficulty in starting urine flow, a slow, interrupted flow and dribbling afterwards, pain during urination or blood in the urine or semen.”

Testing for prostate cancer can be done via a blood test and/or a digital rectum exam.

Fertility and sexuality

Even though prostate cancer is more likely to affect men aged 50 years and over, it is being seen in younger men who might still be considering having children or adding to their family.

While the cancer itself might not affect a man’s sperm or ability to get an erection, treatment for the cancer could, including surgery (the prostate is surrounded by nerves that control erections) or other therapies (e.g. chemotherapy, radiation therapy, etc).

The PCFA recommends men (and couples) discuss their options.

“Talk to your doctor, get informed and explore your options. If you wish to become a biological father while still choosing the best treatment for prostate cancer, talk to your specialist about sperm banking and/or sperm aspiration before you start treatment.”

Early detection

Like most health conditions early detection is the key. So, make sure you check in on your partner’s health and encourage him to speak to a doctor if something doesn’t seem right.

Image courtesy of Movember Australia

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