HEALTH TALK: Myths and facts about prostate cancer

Dr. Victor Emanuel MD
Dr. Victor Emanuel MD

Prostate cancer ranks first among cancers in men in Dominica, but what do you know about it? Let’s tackle 5 common myths about the disease. Stay tuned, because at a later date, I will tell you everything there is to know about the disease. Today’s discussion is just to whet your appetite.

MYTH 1: Prostate cancer surgery will end your sex life and cause urine leakage.

FACT: Your surgeon may be able to spare the nerves that help trigger erections. Then you will probably be able to have an erection for sex again, although it could take some time. Recovery can take from 4 to 24 months, maybe longer. You might expect younger men to recover sooner, and you’d be right.

If you still have trouble, doc can help with treatment for erectile dysfunction. Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra are common medications that can help. I know you already know about these. Doc will tell you if these are right for you.

Other prostate cancer treatments, such as radiation and hormone therapy, also can affect your sex life. Talk to doc about your choices. For readers in Dominica, radiation and hormone therapy will be offered overseas – not available here.

Urine leakage is possible after surgery, but it’s usually temporary. Within a year, about 95% of men have as much bladder control as they did before surgery.

MYTH 2: Only elderly men are at risk of prostate cancer.

FACT: Prostate cancer is rare for men under 40, which is one reason we start screening with PSA blood tests from that age. If you’re concerned, ask your doc if you need to get tested earlier. Age isn’t the only factor. Others include:

  • Family history. If your father or brother had prostate cancer, your own risk doubles or triples. The more relatives you have with the disease, the greater your chances of getting it.
  • Race. If you are black (of African origin), your risk of prostate cancer is higher than men of other races. Scientists do not yet know why.

You may want to discuss your risks with your doc so you can decide together when you should be tested for prostate cancer.

MYTH 3: All prostate cancers must be treated.

FACT: You and your doctor may decide not to treat your prostate cancer. Reasons include:

  • Your cancer is at an early stage and is growing very slowly.
  • You are elderly or have other illnesses. Treatment for prostate cancer may not prolong your life and may complicate care for other health problems.

In such cases, your doctor will likely suggest “active surveillance.” This means that your doctor will regularly check you and order tests to make sure your cancer does not worsen. If your situation changes, you may decide to start treatment.

MYTH 4: A high PSA score means you have prostate cancer.

FACT: Not necessarily. Your PSA could be high due to an enlarged prostate or inflammation or infection of your prostate. The PSA score helps doc decide if you need more tests to check for prostate cancer. Also, your doctor is interested in your PSA score over time. Is it increasing, which could be a sign of a problem? Or, did it decrease after cancer treatment, which is, of course, desirable.

MYTH 5: If you get prostate cancer, you will die of the disease.

FACT: You’re likely to live to an old age or die of some other cause. That doesn’t mean checking for prostate cancer is not important. Finding out early and working with the doctor on a treatment plan are really key factors in dealing with the disease.

As I’ve said, stay tuned.

See you next week.

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  1. jah cure
    June 16, 2014

    Hormone therapy is available in dominica and is the Gold standard treatment for prostate cancer and whenever detected it is always treated however treatment options would depend cancer stage,patients possibilities economically and and patientes wishes..Urine leakage after radical prostatectomy can be permanent and is due to permanent nerve injury during the procedure. If you have prostate issues you should see a Urologist or a General Surgeon.

  2. anonymous2
    June 15, 2014

    The best test for prostate cancer is not the PSA test. Do the CA-prostrate test or the whole screen of CA-125 to determine if you have a cancer and what type.
    Most prostate cancers are slow growing and there are treatments other than chemo and radiation that can eliminate them without a lot of side effects. Hyperthermia is one of those tx’s.

    • Don Keyballs
      June 16, 2014

      @anonymous 2–I thought the CA-125 test is being used to test for ovarian cancer (cancer of the ovaries). Isn’t the doctor talking about prostate cancer?
      A CA 125 test measures the amount of the protein CA 125 (cancer antigen 125) in your blood. A CA 125 test may be used to monitor certain cancers during and after treatment. In some cases, a CA 125 test may be used to look for early signs of ovarian cancer in women with a very high risk of the disease.

  3. Don Keyballs
    June 14, 2014

    Kudos to Dr.Emmanuel. I understand that if one ejaculates the night or day before having the PSA test, that can affect the reading also. Hopefully Dr.Emmanuel will talk about BPH and its symptoms in his follow up discussions to this very important topic.

  4. Lavie
    June 14, 2014

    Thanks Doc for caring and sharing. Guys please continue to check with your doctor.

  5. Private
    June 14, 2014

    Can we do a tv show or radio to educate more about this disease and also breast and cervical which can be detected early and managed well for longer life?

  6. BEB
    June 13, 2014

    Doc, I’m now referring to myself. I had an operation over seas for prostate cancer some 10 yrs. ago, every now and again I would do a PSA test and the prostate would continue to elevate, then my doctor would tell me to continue the medication {androcur \ apo-cyproterone} I would like to know why after an operation, why should the prostate continue to elevate and still having a urine leakage?
    I’ll be awaiting for ur response next time

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