Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in Canadian men. The prostate is a small gland below the bladder and is responsible for making seminal fluid, a component of semen. The urethra goes through the prostate, which carries urine and semen out of the penis. It is very common for men to have an enlarged prostate as they get older, a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Sometimes, however, as the cells grow and divide, cancerous changes occur.
What Are The Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?
Talk to your doctor if you notice any of the following signs or symptoms: increase in the frequency of urination, an intense need to urinate or feeling a sense of incomplete urination, inability to urinate, an interruption in the stream of the urine, burning or pain during urination, blood in the urine or semen, or painful ejaculation. These are in addition to the general signs and symptoms of cancer discussed above.
If you have any of these signs or symptoms, your doctor may perform a digital rectal exam (DRE), where a finger is inserted into the rectum to palpate the prostate. If it feels abnormal, an ultrasound and biopsy may be performed, as well as a blood test to measure prostate-specific antigen (PSA).
What Happens After a Prostate Cancer Diagnosis?
After a diagnosis, several things may happen. You may have a CT scan or MRI to assess whether the cancer has spread elsewhere. Your Gleason score will also be calculated, which is a measurement of how aggressive your cancer is. Based on these results, as well as your family history and PSA value, your doctor will discuss with you some medical treatment options. Among these are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, brachytherapy, androgen deprivation therapy, and active surveillance. A further explanation is below:
- Brachytherapy – brachytherapy on its own is used for early, stage localized prostate cancer. It involves small radioactive “seeds” implanted into the prostate, where the cancer cells receive radiation from within. It is also used with external radiation therapy.
- Androgen deprivation therapy – this is a hormonal therapy that decreases male hormones as to not stimulate the prostate cancer cells. This has a number of unsettling side effects, such as hot flashes and erectile dysfunction.
- Active surveillance – one study suggested that men refrain from treating their prostate cancer if they are early-stage (T1-T2), over age 70, have a Gleason score of less than 6, and a PSA less than 10 ng/ml.
Complementary Naturopathic Care of Prostate Cancer
Due to the side effects of surgery and radiation, it is extremely important to support the body with optimal nutrition and supplements that decrease the side effects of these conventional therapies for prostate cancer. The overall goals of naturopathic complementary care for clients with prostate cancer are to maintain a healthy body weight, reduce inflammation, reduce PSA, reduce PSA doubling time, and attain optimal nutrition. Here are a few examples:
- Digestive disturbance – radiation can often cause digestive upset in men. Supporting the body with gut healing herbs, probiotics, fish oil and other supplements can help with this.
- Reduce PSA – studies agree that the lower the PSA value is, the better prognosis at it could mean that the cancer cells are growing at a slower rate. Several foods can slow the rise in PSA, such as pomegranate juice and tomato paste.
- Improve sexual dysfunction – desire, arousal, and achievement of orgasm are common concerns among men being treated for prostate cancer. Acupuncture and botanical medicine can greatly help in this area.