The prostate is a very important reproductive organ in men. Itsmajor function is to produce fluids which protect and enrich the sperm.
In younger men the prostate is about the size of a walnut. It is doughnut shaped and surrounds the beginning of the urethra, the tube that conveys urine from the bladder to the penis. The nerves that control erections surround the prostate.
The aforementioned functions of the prostate leave no doubt on its importance to men’s reproductive and bowel functions.
In fact, physicians say that men with problems with their prostate will experience painful ejaculation after sex, decreased libido (sexual urge) and a reduced ability to get an erection.
It goes without saying that every man should do everything possible to guard his prostate from getting damaged.
Consultant Urologist, Dr. Segun Atobatele, says prostate cancer is the second highest cause of male cancer deaths.
Atobatele explains that prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate grow out of control, break out of the prostate and invade distant parts of the body, particularly the bones and lymph nodes, producing secondary tumours, a process known as metastasis.
He notes that once the cancerous cells escape from the prostate, a “cure” becomes impossible but it can be treated.
The urologist states that studies show that 80 per cent of men would be diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 80, but adds than many of the older men diagnosed with early stage of the disease will end up dying of other causes other than prostate cancer.
Atobatele says, “There are different kinds of prostate cancers. Some are very slow-growing and never become a serious health problem. Others are more aggressive and more dangerous.”
“All men can get prostate cancer, but it is more common in older men. Prostate cancer usually strikes men over the age of 50, and the risk goes up with age. As you grow as a man, the prostate gets more prone to damages due to wear and tear.”
However, experts are worried that more younger men are being diagnosed with prostate cancer and note that the disease is more life-threatening in younger persons when compared to adults.
Scientists at the University of Michigan Health System in a new study warn that the number of younger men diagnosed with the disease has increased by six-fold in the last 20 years, and the disease has been aggressive in these younger men, going by their analysis.
They say when prostate cancer is diagnosed in younger men, the damage is often irreversible and impossible for affected persons to live or cope with.
The lead researcher, professor of internal medicine and consultant urologist, Kathleen Cooney, says that it is better for younger men to take a cue from women on their breast cancer risks by evaluating theirs for the disease as they grow older, so they can do all to prevent it.
“Early onset of prostate cancer tends to be aggressive, striking down men in the prime of their life. The tumour in men below 50 grows faster than usual. These fast-growing tumours in young men might be entirely missed by screening because the timeframe is short before they start to show clinical symptoms,” she notes.
The scientists, however, note that one thing is for sure: early onset of prostate cancer is hereditary, which means that having a family member with the disease increases one’s chances of developing the disease by more than 60 per cent.
Cooney states, “Men with a family history of prostate cancer have a two- to three times greater chances of being diagnosed with prostate cancer before they are 50. That risk increases for young men with multiple affected relatives.
“It runs in families, including extended families. Many young people that have the disease had either an uncle, cousin, not always father, with the disease as well.”
They suggest that genetic counseling or increased surveillance in younger men with a family history of prostate cancer may increase an individual’s chances of surviving the disease.
It is not just those with a family history of prostate cancer that are at risk, physicians say that blacks, especially those of African descent, are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease before they are 60.
Atobatele notes, “Blacks, especially African men, who have a higher risk may want to start screening at an earlier age. They should also consider seeing their doctors regularly after they are 50, as the disease can only be diagnosed by an expert.
“Its symptoms are usually not noticeable at an early stage but screening tests for prostate cancer, such as prostate specific antigen blood test can give a definite assessment of a patient’s chances of getting the disease.”
The physicians have said it all, prostate cancer is deadly and common. The International Cancer Statistics Organisation estimates that over two million men are diagnosed with the disease every year.
If you are black, an African and above 50, please take a test today.