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.