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Common Myths About Prostate Cancer Busted!

prostate cancer myths

Prostate cancer is much less talked about cancers, unlike breast cancer. Prostate cancer in India is the second leading cancer in men in the major Indian cities, revealed a 2014 study published in the Journal Meta Gene[1]. Not many men are aware of prostate cancer although the cases are on a rising trend. There are many myths and misconceptions about prostate cancer which indicates the lack of awareness about the condition. So in this article, we aim to bust some of the common myths about prostate cancer.  

Myth 1: Only elderly men get prostate cancer

It is true that the older you are, the higher is the risk of prostate cancer. In most cases, people above 65 years of age suffer from the condition. However, it is a misconception that prostate cancer is an old man’s disease. Although rare, even men aged 40 years can suffer from prostate cancer.

Moreover, age is not the only factors that put you at risk of cancer. People with a family history of prostate cancer are twice likely to suffer from the condition. So if your father or brother suffered from prostate cancer, you are more likely to get it. Also, people with African and American ancestry have a higher risk. Lifestyle factors such as diet is also known to put you at risk of prostate cancer. Here’s more on the causes and risk factors of prostate cancer.

Myth 2: If you do not show symptoms of prostate cancer, you do not have cancer

Most men think that if they do not show any symptoms of prostate cancer, then it means they do not suffer from the condition. This is one of the common myths about prostate cancer. However, this is completely wrong because prostate cancer is one of the most asymptomatic cancers. This means that not all men experience the symptoms and even if you have symptoms of prostate cancer it can be mistaken for other conditions. The symptoms are usually detected first during a routine check-up at a doctor’s clinic. As the symptoms fail to show up, screening of prostate cancer is highly recommended to diagnose cancer at an early stage, if any.

Some of the common symptoms of prostate cancer include an urge to urinate frequently, pain or discomfort during urination, difficulty to start or stop urination, weak flow during urination, stiffness in lower back or thighs, blood in urine or semen, pain during ejaculation and difficulty having an erection.

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Myth 3: Prostate cancer surgery will end your sex life

Most people believe that the surgery for prostate cancer will kill their sexual life. However, this is not the case. Diagnosing the condition earlier and getting it treated from an expert can help you to lead a normal sex life. Talk to your doctor to know the pros and cons of undergoing surgery to remove the prostate gland. The surgery might affect the nerves and can affect your sex life for a short period of time, which is termed as the recovery period. You can attain an erection and enjoy your sex life post the recovery period which ranges from a few months to a year or two, though depending upon the disease state and treatment options which may vary between individuals.

The same is the case with other treatment options for prostate cancer. However, younger men have a better recovery rate compared to older men. Some people also report leakage of urine post-surgery, which usually gets better within a year. So talk to your doctor about the treatment options and its complications, if any.

Myth 4: A high PSA level means you have prostate cancer

Not necessarily because any inflammation of the prostate gland can cause the levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) to surge up. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland. The PSA test measures the amount of PSA in the blood. Although prostate cancer can cause high levels of PSA it is not the only cause. The PSA levels in the blood can increase due to other medical conditions such as prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) and benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH, which is known as prostate enlargement).

So if you have high levels of PSA, your doctor might recommend a few more tests to check for prostate cancer and rule out other clinical conditions of the gland. Moreover, PSA score over a specified time might be considered for a precise result. Hence, consulting your doctor is the right thing to do to know what does high PSA score mean for you.

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Myth 5: Sexual activity increases the risk of prostate cancer

It is a common belief that the more sexually active you are, the higher is the risk of suffering from prostate cancer. However, this is not true. In fact, some studies have reported that men who had frequent ejaculations were at a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine[2], men with moderate frequent ejaculation were at a significantly lower risk of prostate cancer. The study also proved that men with fewer female sexual partners and older age at first intercourse also had a low risk of cancer.

But this doesn’t mean that increased frequency of sexual activity can protect you against prostate cancer. There is no research evidence to substantiate the link between high sexual activity and low risk of prostate cancer.

The most crucial step to deal with prostate cancer is to get your basics right and debunk the myths about prostate cancer. A healthy lifestyle which includes eating a right diet and exercising regularly along with screening (especially if you have a family history) can go a long way to lower your risk of prostate cancer and improve the chances of survival.

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

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References:

1. Jain S, Saxena S, Kumar A. Epidemiology of prostate cancer in India. Meta Gene. 2014 Aug 29;2:596-605.

2. Jian Z, Ye D, Chen Y, Li H, Wang K. Sexual Activity and Risk of Prostate Cancer: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis. J Sex Med. 2018 Sep;15(9):1300-1309.

3. Kulaksızoğlu H, Akand M, Kılıç Ö, Gül M, Kucur M, Göktaş S. Prostate myths: What is the prostate awareness in the general male population in Turkey? Turk J Urol. 2014 Sep;40(3):150-5.

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