This past Sunday, we celebrated Father’s Day. Our family had an annual get-together with my husband’s side of the family. I’m so thankful for the men in our lives. It got me thinking about how important men’s health issues are, and how little we hear about them. So, this post will be about men’s health, and specifically, prostate cancer. I won’t go into the science of the prostate. Instead, my goal is to encourage men to think about their risk factors and take preventive measures as well as be screenings.
Mind the Gap
We hear a lot about women’s health issues. Unfortunately, the life expectancy gender gap has been growing. This is the number of years one gender is expected to live beyond the other.
- In 1920, the life expectancy gender gap was only 1 year.
- By 2014, men were dying almost 5 years sooner than women.
Why the Gap?
Men’s Health Library lists the following as some of the reasons for this gap in life expectancy:
- Men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death and are the victims of over 92% of workplace deaths.
- A higher percentage of men have no healthcare coverage.
- Men make ½ as many physician visits for prevention.
- Men are employed in the most dangerous occupations, such as mining, firefighting, construction, and fishing.
- Society discourages healthy behaviors in men and boys.
- Research on male-specific diseases is underfunded.
- Men may have less healthy lifestyles including risk-taking at younger ages.
All these things add up to men dying at faster rates than women. Only men can bring about the changes needed to alter these numbers. Of course, the women in their lives can advocate for them. This includes encouraging them to see their doctor for annual exams and when symptoms arise that should be looked at.
Preventative care is a huge factor in women living longer than men.
Women are 100% more likely to visit the doctor for annual examinations and preventive services than men. (1)
Prostate Cancer Facts:
1 in 7 Men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
1 in 5 African-American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
African American men are also twice as likely to die of prostate cancer than other races are, however, if diagnosed at the same stage, the mortality rate is the same. Early detection is key!
Men with a family history of prostate cancer are 2-3 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Know your family history, especially if a blood relative has had prostate cancer
Men with the breast cancer gene, BRCA1, and BRCA2, have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
Diet and Exercise
Eat a diet that is high in fiber and low in fat and red meat to reduce your risk of prostate cancer.
As a preventive measure, and for your overall health, eat at least 2½ cups of a wide variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
Get physical activity daily.
Maintain a healthy weight.
According to the American Cancer Society, studies have suggested that diets high in certain vegetables, including tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower), soy, beans, and other legumes, or fish may be linked with a lower risk of prostate cancer, especially more advanced cancers.
Also, several studies have found a higher risk of prostate cancer in men whose diets are high in calcium. There may also be an increased risk from consuming dairy foods. This doesn’t mean that men who are being treated for prostate cancer should not take calcium supplements if their doctor recommends them.
Vietnam vets are 2 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and it is also more aggressive.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics, Health, United States 2015. Retrieved June 3, 2016, 2 Life Expectancy data are from CDC/NCHS, Health, United States, 2015
Prostate cancer is very treatable when caught early.
Symptoms can include:
- Chronic pain in the hips, thighs, or lower back
- Difficulty urinating
- Painful or burning urination
- Blood in the urine/semen
- Trouble getting an erection
Because these symptoms can be mistaken for non-cancerous conditions (and vise versa) it’s important to see your healthcare provider for regular prostate cancer screenings. See http://www.prostatehealthguide.com/ for more information of prostate health.
When to Screen
The American Cancer Society recommends you talk to your doctor about screening at:
- Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years.
- Age 45 for men at high risk of developing cancer of the prostate. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with cancer of the prostate at an early age (younger than age 65).
- Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age).
Treatments for prostate cancer have improved over the years, but nothing is more effective than prevention and early screening. Talk to your doctor today.
I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.
My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com