Blokes' bits: stay a step ahead of prostate and testicular cancer

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November in Australia has become synonymous with men growing ridiculous moustaches in the name of charity. Tens of thousands of blokes these days are embracing Movember, raising awareness about men's health generally and also raising vital funds for the fight against prostate cancer and depression. Men - if facial hair is just not your thing, you can still get clever about your health. Here, the team from Kinetic Health offer an insight into prostate and testicular cancer ... it's not stuff we like to think about all that often, but it's info that might just save your life...

Prostate cancer is a cancer of the prostate gland - a small, walnut-shaped gland that is situated below your bladder above the base of your penis (between your pubic bone and rectum). The prostate's primary function is to produce seminal fluid that nourishes the sperm and aids fertility. Prostate cancer is a condition in which some of the cells of the prostate reproduce far more rapidly than a normal prostate, causing swelling or a tumour.

Globally, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. It causes over 220,000 deaths per year, with ¾ of all cases being in men 65 years or older.

No one knows exactly what causes prostate cancer but research suggests that age, race, genetics, hormones, diet and environment are risk factors.

Symptoms:

  • Passing urine more frequently
  • Sudden urgent need to urinate
  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Weak urine flow and dribbling
  • Discomfort when urinating
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Dull pain in lower pelvic area
  • Persistent bone pain

If you're having difficulties with urination you should see your doctor. Having "waterworks" symptoms does not automatically mean you have prostate cancer, but it can be a symptom of prostate-related problems.

Prostate cancer often produces no symptoms. The first indication of a problem may come during a screening test. There are currently two tests available for prostate cancer:

  1. The Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) which involves the doctor inserting a gloved finger in the anus.
  2. The Prostate Specific Antigen blood test (PSA) which looks for the presence in the blood of a protein produced specifically by prostate cells.

It's a good idea to at least have the PSA test, but preferably both tests about every two years from age 50 onwards, or as advised by your doctor. If you have a family history of prostate cancer occurring in a close relative you should consider having the test annually from age 40.

How can I prevent it?

  • Increase your daily intake of fruit and vegetables, especially tomatoes which are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant, which is a natural cancer-fighter.
  • The minerals zinc and selenium are important for prostate health.
  • High fat diets have been linked to prostate cancer.
  • Soy products may slow down the progression of the disease.
  • Exercise helps to strengthen your immunity, reduces your risk of cancer, and helps prevent obesity which is another risk factor.

Testicular cancer

This cancer affects (surprise surprise) the testicles - the two egg-shaped glands located inside your scrotum. The primary function of the testicles is the production of semen and sex hormones, such as testosterone.

Around 49,000 new cases of testicular cancer are reported annually, with 6.8 in 100,000 men affected. Young men are most commonly affected, with half of those diagnosed being under the age of 33. In recent years a rapid increase in the number of men diagnosed with testicular cancer has occurred in most countries.

While age is not a risk factor, there are other factors that make a person more vulnerable. These include race (white Caucasian males are most commonly affected). Babies born with undescended testicles are five to 10 times more likely to develop this cancer. Also some medical conditions experienced as a child such as an inguinal hernia, a mumps infection of the testicles and testicular torsion increase a person's risk.

Symptoms:

  • Commonly presents as a small, hard lump, a swelling, or change in the consistency of the testicle.
  • Dull ache in the lower abdomen or testicle.
  • Pain in the testicle or scrotum.
  • Enlargement of the testicle.
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the male breasts or nipples.
  • Blood in the semen.

There are two main types of testicular cancer.

  1. Seminoma: cancer formed from immature germ cells, generally affecting 25-55 year old males.
  2. Non-Seminoma: cancer of mature germ cells, commonly found in 15-35 year olds.

Treatment of testicular cancer generally involves removal of the affected testicle, which may be followed be chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Loss of a testicle does not affect a man's sex drive or fertility. Treatment is also very effective, with 95 per cent of cases resulting in a complete cure of the condition. Even in advanced testicular cancer, 50 per cent of cases are cured.

While there is no known prevention for testicular cancer, the best method of detection is self examination. Men can screen themselves by feeling for lumps in their testicles. Men between 25 and 45 should do this every few months. If a lump is found on one testicle, check the other one to see if the same lump is present.  If there are similar lumps on both, then it is almost certainly a normal part of the testicles.  If the lump is only on one testicle, you should consult your doctor.

Early diagnosis is vital in the treatment of testicular cancer, with early forms of the cancer being easiest to treat. If in doubt, it is always best to consult your physician.

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Borne of the merger of Gemini Medical Services and Prime Health Group, Kinetic Health boasts almost 50 years of combined experience in corporate medicine. With a national network of wholly owned medical clinics, a vast array of occupational health services, and the expertise and capacity to deliver in remote as well as metropolitan locations, Kinetic Health are the "Go To People" for corporate and community healthcare. Proudly Australian, their understanding of customer needs ensures they are proactive and decisive in their approach to corporate medicine. They're passionate about the health of your business – and about the people within it. They deliver healthcare to large and small corporate and community groups through for key service offerings: Safety & Training; Health & Wellness; Onsite Medicals; and Clinical Services. For more information visit www.kinetichealth.com.au or call 1300 793 004.