Did you know that one in six American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime? Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men, other than skin cancer. And while not all prostate cancers are deadly, early diagnosis and treatment are key to successful treatment. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of prostate health, including what the prostate is, how to keep it healthy, and what to do if you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer.
What is the prostate and what does it do?
The prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland that is located in front of the rectum and just below the bladder. The main function of the prostate is to produce seminal fluid. Seminal fluid is the milky-white liquid that helps to nourish and transport sperm during ejaculation. The prostate also helps to control the flow of urine from the bladder. Other than that, the prostate doesn’t have too much of an impact on the body.
The prostate also produces a substance called PSA, or prostate-specific antigen. PSA is a protein that is found in semen and helps to liquefy it. PSA levels can be measured through a blood test and may indicate prostate problems even before symptoms appear. Knowing your PSA levels can help you catch prostate problems early and get the treatment you need.
How can you keep your prostate healthy?
There are several things you can do to keep your prostate healthy.
– Get regular screenings: Screenings can help catch prostate cancer early when it’s most treatable. Talk to your doctor about when you should start getting screened and how often you need them. Usually, African-American men and men over the age of 50 are at an increased risk for prostate cancer, so they may benefit from earlier and more frequent testing. However, if you have a family history of prostate cancer, you may need to start earlier.
– Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may help reduce your risk of prostate cancer. You should also limit your intake of saturated fats and red meat. In addition, foods like tomatoes, fish, and soy may help protect prostate health.
– Exercise regularly: Exercise can help reduce your risk of prostate cancer and other conditions that can affect prostate health. A healthy weight is also important for prostate health, so aim to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
– Limit or avoid alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of prostate cancer. If you do drink, limit yourself to two drinks per day or less which is the recommended limit for men.
– Stop smoking: Smoking increases your risk of prostate cancer and can make prostate problems worse. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your prostate health. Try seeking out resources and support to help you quit.
What are the signs of prostate cancer?
There are several signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, but the most common is a change in urination. This can include difficulty urinating, weak or interrupted flow, or increased frequency or urgency. Other symptoms may include pain during urination, blood in the urine or semen, pain in the pelvic region, and erectile dysfunction. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor right away so they can rule out other potential causes and determine if prostate cancer is a possibility. Early detection is key to the successful treatment of prostate cancer. They will likely perform a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. If either of these tests comes back positive, you will need to undergo further testing to confirm the diagnosis.
What should you do if you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer?
If you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer, your treatment will depend on the stage and grade of cancer, as well as your overall health. Once the diagnosis of prostate cancer is established, a further evaluation that incorporates known risk factors is required to determine appropriate treatment options. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy. Your doctor will work with you to create a treatment plan that is right for you.
Usually, in stage 1 prostate cancer, the cancer is confined to the prostate gland and has not spread elsewhere. Treatment may include active surveillance, surgery, or radiation therapy.
Active surveillance means monitoring cancer closely but not treating it right away. This may be an option for men who are older or have other health conditions that make treatment risky. With active surveillance, you will need regular PSA tests and prostate biopsies to check for changes in the tumor. If the tumor does grow or change, you will then begin treatment.
Surgery is usually the first treatment option for stage 2 prostate cancer. The most common type of surgery is a radical prostatectomy, which involves removing the prostate gland and some of the surrounding tissue. Radiation therapy may also be an option for stage 2 prostate cancer.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. There are two types of radiation therapy: external beam radiation therapy, which delivers the beams from a machine outside the body, and internal beam radiation therapy, which involves placing radioactive material in or near the prostate gland.
Hormone therapy may be an option for men with prostate cancer that has spread beyond the prostate gland or comes back after treatment. This type of treatment lowers testosterone levels, which can help shrink the prostate cancer tumor. Chemotherapy is another treatment option for men with prostate cancer that has spread or come back after treatment. This type of treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
Prostate cancer is a serious disease, but it is also one that can be treated successfully in many cases. If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, talk to your doctor about your treatment options and make a plan that is right for you.
What are other signs of a prostate disorder?
There are a few other prostate disorders that are not cancerous but can cause similar symptoms. These include benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis.
– Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): BPH is an enlarged prostate. It’s a common condition among older men and is not cancerous. However, it can cause urinary problems similar to those caused by prostate cancer.
– Prostatitis: Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate. It can be caused by a bacterial infection or other conditions. It can cause urinary symptoms, pain, and fever.
Both BPH and prostatitis can cause urinary symptoms such as a weak stream, the need to urinate more frequently, difficulty starting urination, and waking up at night to urinate. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor so they can rule out other potential causes and determine if prostate problems are a possibility.
They will likely perform a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. If either of these tests comes back positive, you will need to undergo further testing to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for BPH may include medications, surgery, or lifestyle changes. Treatment for prostatitis may include antibiotics if the cause is an infection, as well as pain relief and lifestyle changes.
Problems with the prostate can be serious, so it’s important to see your doctor if you are experiencing any urinary symptoms. With early diagnosis and treatment, many prostate disorders can be managed successfully.
How do supplements contribute to prostate health
Several supplements have been shown to help improve prostate health. These include:
- Saw palmetto: Saw palmetto is a herb that has been traditionally used to treat prostate problems. It is thought to work by blocking the production of certain hormones that can cause prostate enlargement, most likely through anti-inflammatory effects. Saw palmetto berries and extracts, in particular, are used to treat urinary tract symptoms associated with BPH. A study done on 165 men with BPH, taking 160 mg of saw palmetto extract capsules four times per day for 12 weeks, showed an improvement in prostate symptom scores, urinary flow rate, and quality of life scores. Although promising, research on the efficacy of saw palmetto for BPH symptoms in humans is limited. Moreover, research findings on its effectiveness, specifically for BPH symptoms have been variable. For instance, in a review done in 2012 with 17 different studies, it was found that saw palmetto is as effective as a placebo in the reduction of urinary tract symptoms. Therefore, although results are promising, it’s unclear whether supplements would help prevent prostate-related urinary tract symptoms in healthy adults. In the case of prostate cancer, saw palmetto may also help protect against prostate cancer. Different studies that were done on mice, Human prostate cancer cell lines in vitro, and test-tube and animal research showed that this herb may help block the spread and growth of prostate cancer cells. However, the main downside is that no human efficacy tests have been done yet. In conclusion, more research is needed to determine the potential benefits of saw palmetto and the appropriate dosage for prostate health.
- Pumpkin seed oil: Pumpkin seed oil is high in antioxidants and fatty acids, which may help improve prostate health. Through its anti-inflammatory properties, this oil is thought to improve urinary tract symptoms associated with chronic nonbacterial prostatitis and BPH. According to a study done in 2019 that centered around the effects of a proprietary oil-free hydroethanolic pumpkin seed extract on the symptoms of BPH, it was concluded that this pumpkin seed extract significantly reduced symptoms over 12 weeks by around 30% of the International Prostate Symptom Scores. Nonetheless, research on the efficacy and optimal dosage of pumpkin seed oil for prostate issues are still limited.
- Lycopene: Lycopene is a plant pigment found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables. It is beneficial for prostate health. Although still very limited, some trials have been able to find a weak link between lycopene and a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
- Selenium: Selenium is a mineral that is essential for prostate health. It helps protect the prostate from damage and may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Based on the most recent systemic review that discusses the association between selenium and prostate cancer, it was found that selenium plays a protective role in prostate cancer. However, the authors advise the conduction of more studies with fewer limitations to reach a conclusive result.
- Green tea: Green tea is high in antioxidants, which can help protect the prostate from damage. Green tea consumption has been linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer. In addition, compounds found in green may have anticancer properties. For example, in a 2019 review, flavonoids from green tea were reported to inhibit carcinogenesis, tumor growth, and metastasis in several cancers. However, more conclusive research is required.
- Beta-sitosterol: Beta-sitosterol is a plant-derived compound that has been shown to improve prostate health through its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This compound, which is also found in saw palmetto, has been studied for its potential to reduce urinary tract symptoms of BPH through its anti-inflammatory effects, as well as, its anti-prostate cancer properties. The only issue is that more human studies are needed since most data comes from limited test-tube and animal studies. In terms of its role in BPH, one study compared the effect of saw palmetto oil enriched with beta-sitosterol to saw palmetto oil alone in 91 men with symptomatic BPH. Over 12 weeks, the enriched oil was found to be significantly more effective than saw palmetto oil alone or placebo in reducing the severity of urinary tract symptoms. However, despite promising results, much more research on the efficacy and optimal dosage of beta-sitosterol for prostate health is required.
- Flower pollen extracts: Flower pollen extracts have been traditionally used to treat prostate problems. They are thought to work by reducing inflammation and swelling. While anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen are frequently used to help reduce inflammation and pain, particularly in chronic prostatitis, there is growing interest in using flower pollen extracts as a natural alternative to these medications. This comes after a study showed that treatment with a daily intake of capsules containing 1 gram of pollen extract and several B vitamins for 3 months improved the quality of life in chronic prostatitis patients by reducing the levels of pro-inflammatory IL-8; a marker of inflammation. With that being said, it is also important to note that flower pollen extracts are generally safe and have no serious reported side effects.
- Pygeum: Pygeum is a herb that has been traditionally used to treat prostate problems. It is thought to work by reducing inflammation and swelling. Based on limited test-tube and human studies, it was shown that pygeum extract may reduce inflammation associated with prostatitis and can protect against the growth of cancerous cells. While research on the efficacy of pygeum supplements is limited, it appears to be safe so far, with few reported side effects.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential for prostate health. It helps protect the prostate from damage and may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Research has been able to provide evidence that there is an association between prostate cancer, vitamin D deficiency and inflammatory signaling. However, whether vitamin D supplementation is beneficial is still inconclusive. The results are diverse enough that one analysis discovered an increased risk of prostate cancer in people with high circulating levels of vitamin D. For this reason, supplementing with vitamin D might be beneficial for only those with vitamin D deficiency only and should not be recommended for prostate health in high doses.
- Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that is essential for prostate health. It helps protect the prostate from damage and may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. According to research, zinc concentration in the prostate is significantly lower in people with prostate cancer. As a result, research into zinc’s potential role in preventing or slowing the progression of prostate cancer is ongoing and is yet to be conclusive. For this reason, zinc use without a medical prescription is not recommended.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant thought to help protect the prostate from damage. Although, in the past, Vitamin E was thought to have protective effects against prostate cancer, more recent studies have linked vitamin E supplements to an increased risk of prostate cancer. Based on The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), it was found that men who take vitamin-E-only supplements had a 17% greater risk of developing prostate cancer over 7 years. For this reason, even though no direct link between vitamin E and prostate cancer has been established, Vitamin E supplements are not currently recommended to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and men should avoid its supplementation unless advised by a medical professional.
- Soy isoflavones: Soy isoflavones are plant-derived compounds that are beneficial for prostate health. They were found to be protective against prostate cancer in limited animal and observational human studies. However, more high-quality human studies are required to reach a conclusive endpoint.
- Pomegranate extracts: Pomegranate extracts are high in antioxidants, which can help protect the prostate from damage. Data coming from limited test-tube and animal studies show that pomegranate extract may slow the growth and spread of prostate cancer cells. However, human studies did not find a marked improvement in cancer progression.
- Nettle root: Nettle root is an herb that has been traditionally used to treat prostate problems. It is thought to work by reducing pain and inflammation. Due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects, many supplements use it to fight urinary tract and bladder infections. Despite encouraging results, most research on nettle root extract for prostate health is limited and out of date. More large-scale studies are needed to evaluate its ability to alleviate BPH symptoms and define its role in prostate cancer.
Prostate health is an important topic for all men, as the prostate gland plays a role in sexual reproduction. In this article, we have discussed the prostate gland and some of the most common prostate problems. We have also looked at some of the best supplements and foods for prostate health. While there is no one sure way to prevent prostate problems, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, avoiding smoking and alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight are all measures that may help. Speak with your doctor before taking any supplements to ensure they are safe for you to take. Stay healthy and informed to help reduce your risk of prostate problems.
Disclaimer: This blog was written using the latest studies and reviews published. Therefore, this information is susceptible to change as new publications are released. Make sure to speak with your physician before making any informed decisions.
FAQs about prostate health:
1. What is the prostate gland?
The prostate gland is a small, walnut-sized gland that is located just below the bladder in men. It helps produce semen and plays a role in sexual reproduction.
2. What are the symptoms of prostate problems?
Symptoms of prostate problems can vary depending on the condition. Some common symptoms include difficulty urinating, weak urine flow, pain during urination, blood in the urine or semen, and frequent urination.
3. Can prostate problems be cured?
The answer to this question depends on the condition. Some prostate problems can be cured, while others cannot.
4. Can prostate cancer be prevented?
There is no one sure way to prevent prostate cancer, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. Some measures that may help include eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, avoiding smoking and alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight.
5. What are some of the best supplements for prostate health?
Many different supplements may be beneficial for prostate health. Some of the most popular include pumpkin seed oil, lycopene, selenium, green tea, beta-sitosterol, flower pollen extracts, pygeum, nettle root, vitamin D, zinc, and vitamin E.
6. Are there any risks associated with taking supplements for prostate health?
As with any type of supplement, there are always risks involved. It’s important to speak with your doctor before taking any supplements, as some may not be safe for you to take if you have other health conditions.
7. Can prostate problems be prevented?
There is no one sure way to prevent prostate problems, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. Some measures that may help include eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, avoiding smoking and alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight.
8. What are some of the best foods for prostate health?
Some of the best foods for prostate health include tomatoes, soybeans, fatty fish, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, and nuts.