Women & Prostate Health

Women – you have a bigger role in a man’s prostate health than you realize.  You understand how important it is to take care of yourselves.  You regularly go to the doctor for screening tests ranging from mammograms to pap smears and have few qualms about seeking medical help when necessary. 

Whether it’s your husband, father, brother or son, getting them to talk about prostate health will at least get them thinking about and realizing that this disease can be fought successfully if men take time for the necessary screenings tests they require that can potentially save their lives.

Understand too, that even though prostate cancer is a man’s disease, the women who love them are greatly affected by it also.  The tentacle reach of a cancer diagnosis goes far beyond just the person affected with it – a woman who is a wife or partner of a man diagnosed with prostate cancer will have emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual reactions to this diagnosis and this is why a woman can be a man’s biggest influencer on getting him to take care of himself for her.

Ways women can encourage prostate health

·         Know what the prostate gland is

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is part of a man’s reproductive system located between the rectum and the bladder.  It produces the liquid or semen that carries sperm and also helps regulate bladder control and sexual function.

·         Know what prostate cancer is

Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate grows out of control.  The cancer may remain confined to the prostate gland but it can also spread to other areas of the body such as lymph nodes, organs or to the bones. Remind men they need to be just as vigilant about prostate cancer as women are about breast cancer.

·         Know prostate cancer risk factors

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for prostate cancer in the U. S. for 2016 are that about 180,890 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed with about 26,120 deaths to occur.  About 1 man in 7 will be diagnosed with this disease during his lifetime.

Some of the following risk factors have been linked to the disease:

·         Age – chances of having prostate cancer increase significantly after age 50.

·         Family history – men whose fathers, brothers, uncles, or grandfathers have had prostate cancer are at double the risk.

·         Race – the highest incidence of prostate cancer occurs in African American men and they are twice as likely to die from the disease.

·         Veterans and men exposed to Agent Orange are at an increased risk of developing the disease.

·         Know the symptoms

Often it may have no symptoms but some common symptoms that may occur include blood in the urine or semen, erectile dysfunction, painful ejaculation, back or hip pain, and frequent urination and difficulty starting or stopping a urine stream.

·         Know how prostate cancer is detected

This is where early detection is crucial – by regular, consistent screenings.   If a man develops prostate cancer the earlier it is caught the greater the chance of survival.  The best early screening tools are a PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test and a digital rectal exam (DRE).  It is recommended for a man to get a baseline PSA and DRE at age 40.  PSA values should be tracked overtime – if it rises this could indicate the need for further screening. 

·         Know the survival rate

Prostate cancer is a disease that if caught early is highly treatable.  The National Cancer Institute reports that the five year survival rate of cancer that remains contained in the prostate is 100 percent. However, if the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, the survival rate decreases significantly.

Finally, the very best things a woman can do to encourage a man’s prostate health is to show how much you care by: 

·         Making sure he has annual physicals. If you have to, make the appointment for him and go with him to it. 

·         If he smokes, help him to quit.

·         Improve his eating habits by including more fruits and veggies.

·         Get him exercising more – go on a brisk walk with him or workout together.

·         Help him reach a healthy weight

·         If he is diagnosed with prostate cancer, go with him to as many of his medical appointments as possible.  Be well informed of his condition. Keep a journal of what the doctor says.  Ask questions.  Be his advocate for him because he will need you now more than ever.