'Movember' raises prostate cancer funds and awareness

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by Susan Hanna

Each November, Movember encourages men to grow mustaches to raise funds for and awareness of men’s health, including prostate cancer.

“Movember is a fun and visible way to encourage people to talk about prostate health,” says urologist Dr. Ed Woods, who provides services at Almonte General Hospital. “That is important, because one in six or one in seven Canadian men will develop the disease.”

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and up to 20 per cent of men who develop it will die from it.

“As men grow older, a significant number of them will develop prostate cancer,” says Dr. Woods, adding that while age is a risk factor, the disease can also strike younger men. “Other risk factors include obesity, smoking and lack of exercise. Afro-Canadian men are more likely to develop prostate cancer, as are men with a brother or father who has had the disease.”

While advanced prostate cancer can cause weight loss, bone pain, anemia, blood in the urine and difficulty urinating, the early stages of the disease may cause few symptoms. “Symptoms can also be confusing because slow urination can also be caused by an enlarged prostate gland, which is a benign and very common condition,” adds Dr. Woods.

Prostate cancer is diagnosed through a variety of tools, including assessing a man’s overall health and family history, a physical examination to check for lumps in the prostate, a PSA blood test that measures protein produced by the prostate gland and surgical biopsy.

Once prostate cancer is diagnosed, treatment options include surgery, radiation, medication, lifestyle modifications or, in some cases, active surveillance of the disease without other treatment.

If detected and treated early, prostate cancer is highly curable. “Today we have better surgery, more radiation options and new and better treatments for advanced prostate cancer and for bone thinning that can be caused by some of the cancer treatments,” says Dr. Woods.

The best defence against prostate cancer is a healthy lifestyle and awareness, says Dr. Woods. “A heart-healthy lifestyle is also a prostate-healthy lifestyle,” he explains. “Men should also get their heads out of the sand and see their doctor for regular checkups, which includes checking the prostate. If you have decreased urine flow and any of the other risk factors, talk to your doctor about options, including additional screening for prostate cancer.”