Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

July 15, 2008              

Table of Contents

  • Prostate Health (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)

Prostate Health

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) -- enlargement; and
  • cancer.
  • 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 recent years.

    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

    Gregg 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 inspiring account.

    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 to treat.

    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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