Understanding prostate cancer

  • PublishedJune 11, 2014

Every year many Kenyan men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and many more may have the disease but may not know about it. Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in men around the world. It only affects men and affects the prostate – a gland in the male reproductive system. Often, the disease is a progressing disease, thus many men die of old age without ever knowing they had prostate cancer. Only when an autopsy is done do the doctors find out that it was there.

Just like most cancers, when detected early, prostate cancer has a better chance of successful treatment. If it isn’t treated, prostate cancer follows a natural course, starting as a tiny group of cancer cells that can grow into a full-blown tumor.


There are often no symptoms of prostate cancer, especially during the early stages of the disease. Most men at this stage find out they have prostate cancer either through a routine check up or blood test. When symptoms do exist, they are usually one or more of the following:

The patient urinates more often and urination is painful.
Difficulties to start urinating or even finding it hard to keep urinating once he has started.
Blood in the urine and semen.
Discomfort in the pelvic area.
Ejaculation may be painful or even achieving or maintaining an erection may be difficult.

Who is at risk?

Although any man is at risk of the disease, certain factors can increase your risk of prostate cancer. These include:

Age.  The risk of prostate cancer increases with age and often the disease is rare in men younger than 40, but the chance of having it rises rapidly after age 50 and is most common among men older than 65years.

Family history. Individuals with a family history of prostate cancer are at an increased risk of developing the disease. The degree of risk depends upon the type of relative affected. For example, risk is higher if an immediate family member has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The more closely related an individual is to someone with prostate cancer, the more likely they will share the same genes that predisposed the affected individual.

Diet. Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer. These men also tend to eat less fruits and vegetables. Thus, you should ensure your diet is healthy and well balanced. Also, your daily alcohol consumption should be no more than a drink or two each day. Recent research has linked smoking to a possible small increase in the risk of death from prostate cancer, thus it is important to avoid smoking cigarettes at all costs.

Weight. Being obese increases your risk of prostate cancer. Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer may be more likely to have advanced disease that’s more difficult to treat. Try and reduce the number of calories you eat each day and increase the amount of exercise you do. If you have a healthy weight, work to maintain it by exercising regularly and choosing a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Studies of exercise and prostate cancer risk have mostly shown that men who exercise may have a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

Expert Advice…

A wide range of treatments exists for prostate cancer including chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Treatment can be given to control the cancer for several years, relieve any symptoms and improve your quality of life. But you need not wait until you are at this stage. Ensure you do a blood test yearly so that the disease can be detected and treated early. Also, see a doctor if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned here.

Published in December 2013



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