July 15, 2008
(Introduction to special issue)
Veteran Takes On a New Battle
(Fighting prostate cancer)
What Men Need to Know
(Prostate facts from Mayo and the FDA)
Table of Contents
The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland
located in front of the rectum, just beneath the bladder, and
surrounding the urethra (the tube through which urine leaves the body).
A part of the male reproductive system, it makes a fluid that is
included in semen.
Three main concerns associated with the
prostate gland are:
prostatitis -- inflammation or infection;
benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) --
There are several types of prostatitis, and the
symptoms may range from none at all to fever, pain, burning urination,
and/or a frequent urgent need to urinate. Asymptomatic prostatitis is
often detected when a physician is seeking causes of infertility or
conducting a test for prostate cancer.
BPH is the most common prostate problem for men
ages 50-plus because the gland usually continues growing as boys mature
into manhood. Symptoms may include dribbling, the urge to urinate
frequently, breaks in the urine stream, and/or a weak flow.
Depending upon its stage, prostate cancer may
produce no noticeable symptoms, some combination of those listed above,
blood in the urine or semen, swelling of the legs, pelvic area
discomfort, or bone problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, the
diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer have greatly improved in
According to the National Cancer Institute, one
prostate condition does not lead to another. In other words, having
prostatitis or BPH will not increase the risk for developing prostate
cancer. However, it is also possible to have more than one condition at
the same time and the symptoms -- or lack of symptoms -- can be
confusing. Only a doctor can determine the correct diagnosis.
Veteran Takes On a New Battle
Goodrich of Tuscon, Arizona, has kindly offered to share his
personal story of confronting prostate cancer with fellow Experience!
readers. For the past five years, Gregg has maintained a busy
schedule as a senior group-exercise instructor. He also works as a
freelance fitness writer and volunteers at the hospital where he
undertook his cancer treatment.
Another special biographical fact about Gregg
Goodrich is that he is a Viet Nam veteran. In 2007, he checked into the
VA hospital for treatment of medical complaints completely unrelated to
prostate matters. You see, Gregg was one of the many men experiencing no
symptoms associated with prostate cancer.
"Checking into the VA, like being inducted, one
goes through a myriad of tests -- blood work, urinalysis, X-rays, et
cetera," Gregg observes. One of those tests measured his
prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level. A blood sample drawn from a vein
is analyzed for the presence of PSA, a substance which is naturally
produced by the prostate gland to help liquify semen. A small amount of
PSA in the bloodstream is considered normal, but high levels may be a
sign of prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement, or cancer.
"The test indicated that my PSA was elevated to
13, more than six times the normal range," says Gregg. "The norm is
around 2, so this meant I was to be tested further. The biopsy proved to
be positive. I would undergo aggressive treatment which included hormone
treatment along with radiation."
During his treatment, Gregg found a proactive
combination of the following to be extremely helpful: cardiovascular and
strength training, a sound nutritional plan, a strong support system
(including a cancer guide, social workers, and support team), renewed
spiritual faith, meditation and other alternative approaches
complimentary to Western medical practice.
"Having cancer gives one a totally different
outlook on life," Gregg says. "However, having been diagnosed with
prostate cancer, it simply didn't occur to me to stop working out. I
felt healthy and strong, so I scheduled my radiation treatments in the
mornings and continued my afternoon workouts. At least for a short time.
Throughout my cancer treatment, I did however keep up with two part-time
jobs working as a group fitness instructor for seniors."
He certainly did something right! "Despite my
sometimes vigorous schedule, I handled the treatments surprisingly
well," he says. "So well, in fact, that my doctors and cancer guide
wanted to know what I was doing that their other patients weren't. After
a closer look, my medical team concluded what I myself had always
believed in: Exercise had made the difference."
Elaborating on his experience, Gregg says, "I
found that exercise is not only safe and possible during cancer
treatment, but it can improve physical functioning and quality of life,
as well as help with the mental and emotional swings associated with
cancer. I found that I needed to exercise at a lower intensity and
progress at a slower rate than people who are not getting cancer
treatment. I recognized that exercise was an effective way to counteract
the negative effects of inactivity in chronic illness. Too much rest
results in loss of function, strength, and range of motion. It can also
lead to depression and loss of self-esteem. In studies, regular exercise
has been associated with reduced fatigue, as well as the ability to do
normal daily activities without major limitations."
Well said, Gregg! Thank you for sharing your
What Men Need to Know
A number of reliable agencies, including
the Mayo Clinic and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, offer
comprehensive information regarding prostate health. For men with
prostate problems, the good news is that many new and effective
treatments are available.
A wide array of pharmaceutical, non-surgical,
and surgical treatments have been developed for prostatitis and BPH.
Regarding prostatitis, determining the right diagnosis of the exact
kind is vital to undertaking the best treatment. While BPH cannot
actually be cured, proper treatment can often relieve the symptoms.
Not always, but usually, prostate cancer grows
slowly and initially remains within the prostate gland. Therefore, early
detection is important. As with prostatitis and BPH, the possible
courses of treatment are many, ranging from watchful waiting to hormone
therapy, radiation, a combination of the two, surgery, chemotherapy, and
more. The best treatment for each man is highly individualized. Factors
that are considered include age, life expectancy, the spread and the
rate of growth of the cancer, and benefits versus possible side effects
of the treatment.
Whether men with no prostate-related symptoms
should routinely get screened for prostate cancer is still under debate
in the scientific and medical communities. The American Cancer Society
does recommend yearly screening after age 50 (perhaps earlier for black
men and men with a family history of the disease, as they have a higher
risk). In addition to the PSA test, a digital rectal examination should
be conducted by the physician to manually feel for bumps on the
prostate. These steps may help to detect cancer early when it is easier
According to the Mayo Clinic, prostate cancer
cannot be prevented. However, its experts do include regular physical
exercise and a healthful diet as good-sense measures for reducing one's
risk and for possibly slowing the disease's development. Once a
diagnosis of prostate cancer has been made, the Mayo Clinic advises
patients to use positive coping strategies, including: "Get plenty of
exercise." In full agreement with Gregg Goodrich (see previous article),
the Mayo Clinic cites exercise as a good way to help fight depression
and to relieve tension during prostate cancer treatment.
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