Arming patients against prostate cancer

An older man holding a baseball bat with his arm around a child who holds a catcher's mit.

Behavioral and dietary changes are especially important to adopt as early as possible in life, as they really can make a difference.

Roland Chen, MD, urologist

Even though there are many effective treatments for prostate cancer, it is still the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the US. More than 30,000 deaths result from prostate cancer every year, and Cheshire Medical Center’s urologists want to ensure none are from the Monadnock Region.

“I often hear ‘every man has prostate cancer before they die,’” says Roland Chen, MD, urologist at Cheshire Medical Center. “Although this is an exaggeration for sure, prostate cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in men, behind only skin cancer, striking roughly 1 in every 7 to 8. I want all our patients to understand the facts, rather than believe the myths, about this disease.”

While common, Chen says prostate cancer has several reassuring aspects:  

  • It is one of the slowest-growing cancers. Prostate cancer patients can often live for years (5 to 20 or more) after diagnosis, even if it has spread to other body parts. 
  • It is generally a disease of older men, or people born with prostates, with most diagnoses made when patients are in their 60s, 70s, or later. 
  • Many patients with prostate cancer pass away due to other causes unrelated to cancer.
  • Patients have many effective treatment options for prostate cancer. Early detection is key, but treatments can be effective even once it has started to spread.

Prostate cancer myths 

Many people mistakenly believe they cannot have prostate cancer because they have no problems urinating. In reality, many patients diagnosed with prostate cancer have little to no problems urinating. Symptoms often do not occur with prostate cancer until it has spread extensively, which is why early screening and detection is important.

Some people mistakenly believe they will not get prostate cancer because they have no family history of cancer. This is also false. Many patients diagnosed with prostate cancer have no family history of it—or any other type of cancer.

Preventing prostate cancer

Prostate cancer’s slow growth and progression puts the power of prevention in your hands. Chen says behavioral and dietary changes are especially important to adopt as early as possible in life, as they really can make a difference.

“We know that a healthy, active lifestyle and eating a nutritious diet can reduce your cancer risk. A diet full of fruits and vegetables with more antioxidants and less animal protein is helpful.”

The American Cancer Society reports men who have diets high in dairy products and calcium or are overweight are at higher risk.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation shares that walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes a day, or three or more hours a week, makes a significant difference to this cancer, in addition to a nutritious diet.

Screening is most important at ages 50 to 70

Screening for prostate cancer is a controversial topic today. Chen says that because so many prostate cancer patients die of other causes, it's important to consider who is screened and how patients are treated once they are diagnosed with prostate cancer. 

“In general, older men should be screened and treated less aggressively,” Chen says. “Men in their 50s and 60s diagnosed with prostate cancer are much more likely to die from this disease, so younger men must be screened more diligently.”

Men with a family history of prostate cancer and African Americans are more likely to get prostate cancer, so they should also be screened more frequently and carefully.

Screening should be done yearly with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and digital rectal examination in men with at least a 10-to-15-year life expectancy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares a video and article discussing prostate cancer screening.

Speak with your primary care provider or urologist to discuss prostate cancer screening at your next wellness check.

“As with any cancer,” Chen reminds us, “the earlier we can detect prostate cancer, the better your chances are with treatment.”

To make an appointment with a member of Cheshire Medical Center's Urology team, call the number on the back of your insurance card to find out if you need a referral. If you do, ask your primary care provider. Otherwise, call the department directly at 603-354-6570.