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Health Topics
Prostate Cancer and other Prostate Conditions

Prostate Cancer refers to cancer that occurs in the glandular cells of the prostate. This is a walnut-sized gland that is found in front of the rectum underneath the bladder and is only found in men. It contains gland cells that produce fluid that protects and nourishes sperm cells in semen. This form of cancer is one the most commonly occurring in men.

There are risk factors for developing Prostate Cancer and they include age (mostly found in men over 55), family history of the disease and race (this cancer is more prevalent in men of Afro-Caribbean or African descent and less common in men of Asian descent). A diet high in animal fat may also increase the risk. There may not be any symptoms in the early stages but later on the following symptoms may occur: frequent need to urinate especially at night; difficulty in starting urination; inability to urinate; weak flow of urine; painful or burning urination; difficulty in having an erection; painful ejaculation and blood in the urine or semen. If these symptoms are experienced it does not necessarily mean that the patient has Prostate Cancer. IN many men the prostate gets larger with age due to a non-cancerous condition known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia.

Prostate Cancer screening tests include rectal examination by a Doctor and blood tests for prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The levels of PSA may be elevated in patients with Prostatic Cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia or infection in the prostate.

The Doctor may order procedures such as transrectal ultrasonography (a probe is inserted into the rectum to product pictures of the prostate area),or a cystoscopy (this involves looking into the urethra and bladder through a thin, lighted tube). If the results of these tests suggest the presence of cancer a biopsy will be taken. If cancer is the diagnosis the treatment will depend on the stage of the disease and the grade of the tumour. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy and/or hormonal therapy.

If the cancer has not spread outside the prostate gland a radical prostatectomy may be performed (this is the surgical removal of all or part of the prostate gland). This can be done in one of two ways: through an incision in the abdomen (retropubic) or an incision between the scrotum and the anus (perineal). A catheter is usually necessary for a period of weeks after the prostatectomy. Moderate walking is recommended after the surgery but strenuous activity is not advised. Most men have some degree of erectile dysfunction in the three to twelve months after the prostatectomy and nearly all should expect some permanent decrease in their ability to have an erection.

Prostatitis is an acute or chronic inflammation of the prostate gland and is usually caused by an infection. Symptoms of acute prostatitis include chills, fever, urgent need to urinate, painful urination, dribbling, lower back pain and testicular pain. In chronic cases the scrotum may become swollen and tender.

In all these conditions a diet that includes natural foods, fish, lean meats, brown rice for example is encouraged. Zinc is believed to have a stabilising and protective effect on the prostate gland. Fruit and vegetables should be consumed a few times a day. Foods containing soya bean can also help to reduce the severity of the condition. Fatty and sweet foods should be avoided and tea, coffee and alcohol should be drunk in moderation or avoided altogether. The essential fatty acids in fish oils are important in prostate function and Chinese ginseng may be beneficial. Saw Palmetto is another herb that has also been used successfully for prostate inflammation.

Selenium as a nutritional supplement may also protect against Prostate Cancer. Stress should be minimized, smoking should be stopped and exercise such as swimming or walking should be regular. Ask at the Pharmacy and the Staff will be happy to find the supplements mentioned above for you.

More information and support is available from the Irish Cancer Society. The website is:
And the society can also be contacted on the National Cancer Helpline: Freefone 1800 200 700.

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Kevin McCormack B.Sc. Pharm. MPSI