June is Men’s Health Month, encouraging awareness and education of health issues unique to men and boys.  Men often tend to ignore their health due to a widely held misconception that to be health-conscious is unmasculine, but some issues are simply too important to overlook.

One of these issues is prostate cancer, which develops in a gland in the male reproductive system.  Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men in the United States, and the second leading cause of cancer-related death, after lung cancer.  Most common in men over the age of 50, prostate cancer is slow-growing and may not present symptoms for many years.  When caught relatively early, the prognosis for surviving prostate cancer is excellent, although initially it may cause urinary problems or erectile dysfunction.  More aggressive forms of prostate cancer can spread to the bones or lymph nodes, and may need to be treated with chemotherapy.

Because it involves a very personal part of the body, and often requires an invasive procedure in order to diagnose it, many men may ignore symptoms of advanced prostate cancer, such as difficult or painful urination, fatigue and weight loss.  Because it can be caught before becoming symptomatic, when it’s significantly easier to treat, it’s recommended that all men over the age of 40 get a prostate cancer screening.  The screening may involve a digital rectal examination, as well as a blood test.  Men with a family history of prostate cancer, or who show elevated levels of prostate specific antigen, a protein the prostate releases into the blood, should consider annual screenings.

Though there are no specific preventive measures to avoid prostate cancer, general good health habits such as maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking and getting regular exercise can always help.  There is also some evidence that drinking coffee or red wine (in moderate amounts), or eating a diet rich in garlic and tomatoes, might lower the risk.

A prostate screening may be an uncomfortable, embarrassing experience, but getting through it just once may save you a great deal of difficulty down the road.  So man up, as the saying goes, and get yourself checked out.

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger

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