What is prostate cancer?

Globally, 60% of
diagnosed cases

are men who are 65 years or older

What is the Prostate?

The prostate is a gland in a man’s reproductive system. It is located below the bladder, close to the rectum. It makes and stores seminal fluid, which is the whitish and milky fluid that is part of semen. The prostate looks like a walnut in shape and size. If the prostate swells up or grows too large, it can disturb the flow of urine.

The growth and function of the prostate are controlled by male hormones like testosterone. This hormone is responsible for many male features, and it is primarily produced from the testicles

What are the diseases that can affect the Prostate?

  1. Inflammation of the prostate also called prostatitis, refers to swelling and pain in the prostate gland. It occurs among men below 50 years of age. The main types of prostatitis are:
    1. Bacterial prostatitis, which is due to bacterial infection. It can be treated with antibiotics
    2. Non-bacterial prostatitis is not caused by infection, and it is also known as chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Although the major cause of non-bacterial prostatitis is unknown, possible causes may include stress, nerve inflammation, irritation from chemicals, or other health complications.
  2. Enlarged prostate is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. It is also called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Enlarged prostate is mostly found in older men because the prostate gland tends to grow bigger with age. Though not life-threatening, an enlarged prostate can cause narrowing of the urethra and blockage of the free flow of urine by putting pressure on the bladder.
  3. Prostate Cancer occurs when the cells of the prostate grow uncontrollably.

Who's at Risk?

The causes of prostate cancer are not completely understood. It is often difficult to explain why one man gets prostate cancer and another does not. However, Scientists are constantly studying factors that may increase the occurrence of this disease. Some of these factors include:

  • Age: Globally, 60% of diagnosed cases are men who are 65 years or older, and it is not common in men under 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.
  • Genetics: Men who have any of their close relatives develop cancer have a higher risk of having the disease. An example was the case of cancer in an Ijebu chief reported by Dr. J. Randle (1910). Dr. Randle treated the chief for his cancer around 1892 and by 1908, the chief’s son also develop cancer. This historic scientific evidence was one of the earliest records of cancer in Nigeria and suggested that cancer risk may run in family. Researchers in our group recently found some of the genes responsible for such. The good news is that scientists have also discovered that lifestyle can modify genes and the knowledge of these genes can be used to successfully cure prostate cancer. So, someone’s genetics isn’t his destiny.
  • Race and ethnicity: Prostate cancer is more common and causes more deaths in Black men than in their White counterparts. Our research group has found that Black people have a nature that is more ‘inflammatory’ within. This inflammation is like a fire that is used to kill an infection. It is good, but as we grow old and if not properly controlled, this ‘fire’ can work against the body. Controlling this ‘fire’ requires adequate physical activities, nutrition, and vitamins like Vitamin D. Scientists have discovered that people who eat more plant-based whole food have reduced inflammation and lower cancer risk. Please! Eat less of all these foreign and modern foods. Always eat what your grandparents would consider food.
  • Vitamin D: Do you remember how old people used to be put in the early morning Sun to make them healthy? Yes, the purpose is to give them adequate vitamin D. Because of our dark skin and adoption of foreign clothing styles, we now get less Sun exposure than required. Scientists have discovered that men with low Vitamin D have an increased risk of prostate cancer.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer at its early stage does not often cause any symptoms. However, at the advanced stage, the following symptoms are usually noticed;

  1.  Frequent urination, especially at night
  2. Trouble with starting urination or holding back urine when in progress
  3. Pain when urinating
  4. Inability to urinate
  5. Weak or interrupted flow of urine 
  6. Blood in urine
  7. Inability to have an erection
  8. Burning ejaculation
  9. Blood in semen
  10. Pain in the hip, ribs, spine or other areas
  11. These symptoms may also be caused by other health conditions so it is important to see a Doctor or a urologist (a doctor who treats diseases of the urinary tract and reproductive tract) if you experience any of these symptoms.

Can Prostate Cancer Be Found Early?

It is possible to detect cancer before it starts showing symptoms. The Digital rectal exam (DRE) and Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test are two simple tests that can help to identify abnormalities in the prostate. However, they cannot show whether the anomalies are due to cancer or not.

The DRE requires that a doctor inserts a moisturized, gloved finger into the rectum and feels the prostate through the rectal wall to check for hard, lump-filled, or abnormal areas of the prostate.

The PSA test is carried out in the lab to measure the level of PSA, a substance made by the prostate, in the blood. The higher the level of PSA in the blood the higher the likelihood of abnormalities in the prostate. However, many factors affect PSA levels so it is important to talk to a doctor who will take a look at the result and decide if you need more tests to confirm if the rise is due to prostate cancer.

Based on the result of the previous PSA test or DRE, a urologist may recommend a prostate biopsy which is the only sure way to confirm prostate cancer. The procedure involves removing a sample of tissue from the prostate using a surgical needle

It is recommended that beginning at age 40, Black men should talk to their doctor about prostate cancer testing.

Can Prostate Cancer Be Prevented?

Because prostate cancer involves several risk factors and its exact cause is unknown, it is uncertain if it is possible to prevent the disease. Researchers are however making efforts to explore how prostate cancer might be prevented. Efforts have been directed toward studying the roles of certain nutrients, supplements, and food products as well as exercise in the prevention of prostate cancer. Your participation in such studies will support this effort and contribute to making Black men live healthy.

Can Prostate Cancer Be Prevented?