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Defending Against Men's Cancer

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Defending Against Men's Cancer

According to the National Population Health Survey, men are far less likely than women to consider overall health, weight, and disease prevention.

Slowly, but surely, men are becoming more motivated to get the facts on health care and reduce their future health risks. It’s about time; according to the National Population Health Survey, men are far less likely than women to consider overall health, weight, and disease prevention.

It comes as no surprise that men also tend to visit their doctors far less often than women and that men are less involved in natural health care and preventive approaches. Many women feel they have to nag their male mates to get yearly checkups. Even so, I’m pleased that this tide is slowly turning.

When considering a man’s future health, prevention of cancer should be top of mind. In terms of cancer awareness, there are three major arenas to focus on: detection, awareness, and lifestyle approaches. From dietary choices and supplements to lifestyle changes and exercise, there are several natural approaches that can be implemented to greatly reduce the risk of cancer and beat the odds.

Prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is the most common type of men’s cancer and is typically diagnosed most often in those over 60 years of age. This type of cancer is also more prevalent in African American men and in men with one or more family members who have also been diagnosed with the disease.

In most men with prostate cancer, the disease grows very slowly. The majority of men with low-grade, early prostate cancer (which means that cancer cells have been found only in the prostate gland) live a long time after their diagnosis. Even without treatment, many of these men will not die of prostate cancer but will live with it until they eventually die of some unrelated cause.

Testicular cancer
Unlike prostate cancer, testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer among a younger age group (men aged 15 to 45 years of age). While relatively rare, this type of cancer received much press and awareness due to seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong’s diagnosis and triumphant recovery. Testicular cancer rarely affects both testicles and is almost always curable. The five year survival rate now exceeds 95 percent.

In order to diagnose testicular cancer, the doctor will typically review the family medical history and do a full physical exam, scrotal ultrasound, and blood work. The blood work tests for chemical markers which can indicate cancer. The next and most definitive diagnostic step is to conduct a biopsy.

A natural approach
There are numerous natural health care steps that can help men reduce their individual cancer risks. Here are just a few:

  • Eat tomatoes which contain an antioxidant called lycopene. A research review found that subjects with higher blood levels of lycopene have lower rates of cancer.
  • Enjoy cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower. All of these vegetables have been shown to encourage anticancer activity. One study showed a 41 percent decreased risk of prostate cancer among men who ate three or more servings of cruciferous vegetables per week compared with men who only consumed one serving of cruciferous vegetables per week.
  • Eat less red meat and consume more omega-3 fatty acid fish such as wild salmon. Fish eaters have a lower rate of a variety of cancers.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight to help prevent cancer. Several studies have demonstrated the risk of prostate cancer increases with a high body mass index.
  • Supplement with selenium which has been reported to have numerous and diverse anticancer abilities that can inhibit cancer growth in animals and humans.
  • Supplement with vitamin D and get some sunshine. Vitamin D is one of the most powerful anticancer fat-soluble vitamins men and women require on a daily basis. When the rate of sun exposure is low, resulting in low levels of vitamin D, prostate cancer rates have been shown to be high.

By staying informed, taking simple lifestyle and dietary steps, and going for regular checkups, men of all ages can take charge of their own health and reduce their cancer risks dramatically.

What’s your risk?

Age range diagnosisProbability of prostate cancer

Under age 40
Ages 40 to 59
Ages 60 to 79

1 in 19,299
1 in 45
1 in 7

Self-exam for testicular cancer
Testicular cancer has a better than 95 percent survival rate when caught in its early stages; therefore, more men need to be encouraged to carry out self-examinations once a month.

A good time for self-examination is after a warm shower when the scrotum is relaxed and easy to manipulate. In order to do a proper self-check, men should gently and thoroughly roll one testicle, then the other, between the thumb and first two fingers of both hands.

Men should feel for any lumps or hardened areas, an enlargement of one testicle, or a change in consistency. With monthly exams, men can become attuned to normal versus abnormal tissue—allowing them to notice any changes.

Symptoms of testicular cancer
The symptoms of testicular cancer can vary and may include:

  • A painless lump in the testicle
  • Hardness, swelling, or pain in the testicle
  • Pain in the scrotal sac
  • A pulling sensation or feeling of unusual heaviness in the scrotum
  • Enlargement of a testicle
  • A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin
  • A sudden collection of blood or fluid in the scrotum (called a hydrocele)

The above symptoms can be caused by several conditions such as a cyst, a swollen blood vessel, or a hernia. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is important to talk to your family doctor for a correct diagnosis.

The diagnosis of prostate cancer
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, take heart from the fact that it is one of the most curable forms of cancer. The two classical tests used as primary diagnostics are:

Digital rectal exam (DRE): This exam involves the doctor feeling the prostate through the rectum to find hard or lumpy areas.

Prostate specific antigen (PSA): This blood test is used to detect a substance made by the prostate.

Unfortunately, neither of the above tests is perfect. For example, most men with mildly elevated levels of PSA do not have prostate cancer, and many men with prostate cancer have normal PSA levels. In addition, the DRE exam can miss many cancers and its success depends on the skill of the individual doctor. After positive test results, a diagnosis of prostate cancer can only be confirmed by a biopsy.

Symptoms of prostate cancer
Generally, prostate cancer has few early symptoms. In later stages of the disease, symptoms may include:

  • Urinary flow problems
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Urine flow that stops and starts
  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequent pain in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs

Avoid self diagnosis—it is important to consult a doctor as any of these symptoms could be an indication of a medical condition other than prostate cancer.

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