Prostate cancer can't be prevented, but you can take measures to reduce
your risk or possibly slow the disease's progression. The most important
steps you can take to maintain prostate health — and health in general —
are to eat well, keep physically active and see your doctor regularly.
High-fat diets have been linked to
prostate cancer. Therefore, limiting
your intake of high-fat foods and emphasizing fruits, vegetables and
whole fibers may help you reduce your risk. Foods rich in lycopenes, an
antioxidant, also may help lower your prostate cancer risk. These foods
include raw or cooked tomatoes, tomato products, grapefruit and
watermelon. Garlic and cruciferous vegetables such as arugula, bok choy,
broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower also may help fight
Soy products contain isoflavones that seem to keep testosterone in
check. Because prostate cancer feeds off testosterone, isoflavones may
reduce the risk and progression of the disease.
Vitamin E has shown promise in reducing the risk of
among smokers. More research is needed, however, to fully determine the
extent of these benefits of vitamin E.
Getting regular exercise
Regular exercise can help prevent a heart attack and conditions such as
high blood pressure and high cholesterol. When it comes to cancer, the
data aren't as clear-cut, but studies do indicate that regular exercise
may reduce your cancer risk, including prostate cancer.
Exercise has been shown to strengthen your immune system, improve
circulation and speed digestion — all of which may play a role in cancer
prevention. Exercise also helps to prevent obesity, another potential
risk factor for some cancers.
Regular exercise may also minimize your symptoms and reduce your risk of
prostate gland enlargement, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Men
who are physically active usually have less severe symptoms than men who
get little exercise do.
Once you receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer or treatment for this
disease, you may experience a range of feelings — including disbelief,
fear, anger, anxiety, emptiness and depression. You may not be able to
get rid of these distressing feelings. But you can find positive ways to
deal with them so they don't dominate your life. The following
strategies can help you cope with some of the difficulties of prostate
Ask your doctor questions and read about prostate cancer and its
potential side effects. The fewer the surprises, the more quickly
normal a routine as you can.
Don't let the cancer or side effects from treatment dominate your
day. Try to follow the routine and lifestyle you had before learning
of your cancer. Go back to work, take a trip, join your children or
grandchildren on an outing. You need activities that give you a
sense of purpose, fulfillment and meaning. But realize that
initially you may have some limitations. Start slowly and gradually
build your level of endurance.
Try not to
wallow in sad feelings.
Seek diversions and plan at least one enjoyable experience every
day. This might include pursuing a hobby, playing golf or going to a
movie. Make it something you enjoy and look forward to.
Get plenty of
Exercise helps fight depression and is a good way to relieve tension
Look for ways
If you have problems with incontinence, sit in the back of the
theater or meeting room instead of the front. That way you're less
conspicuous if you need to leave for the bathroom. Sit in an aisle
seat on an airplane or train. Wear absorbent undergarments if you're
not sure whether you'll be near a bathroom. Avoid caffeinated
products, which tend to increase your need to urinate.
Open up to a
friend, a family member or a counselor.
Cancer is too heavy a load to carry all by yourself. Sometimes it
helps to talk with someone about your deepest feelings and fears.
Your mind and body aren't separate. The better you feel emotionally,
the better you'll be able to physically cope with your illness. You
may find joining a support group helpful because it can provide you
with a sense of belonging, give you an opportunity to talk with
people who understand your situation and provide you with advice.
Your doctor or someone you know who has experienced prostate cancer
may be able to help you locate a support group.
Your natural reaction to impotence may be to avoid all sexual
contact. Don't fall for this feeling. Touching, holding, hugging and
caressing may become far more important to you and your partner. In
fact, the closeness you develop in these actions can produce greater
sexual intimacy than you've ever had before. There are many ways to
express your sexuality.
Look for the
Cancer doesn't have to be an all-negative experience for you. Good
can come out of it. Confrontation with cancer may lead you to grow
emotionally and spiritually, to identify what really matters to you,
to settle long-standing disputes and to spend more time with people
important to you.
Complementary and alternative medicine
As people take a more active role in their health care, many are
exploring other options of care that fall outside the realm of
traditional medicine. In fact, a range of dietary supplements and herbal
medicines offers new ways to prevent or treat prostate disease, and
cancer in general. The question is, do these therapies work? Some do
show promise and are slowly gaining acceptance in mainstream medicine.
But the benefits and risks of many products and practices remain
unproven by scientific methods. Unfortunately, the production of these
products isn't well regulated, and the amount of active ingredient may
vary from bottle to bottle or even pill to pill.
Herbal products marketed to relieve common prostate problems, such as
frequent urination or a weak urine flow, include:
African plum tree
potato (Hypoxis rooperi)
Rye grass (Secale
Stinging nettle (Urtica
dioica, Urtica urens)
Taken in small to moderate amounts, these products appear to be safe.
But they haven't been studied in large, long-term trials to confirm
their safety or to prove they work.
An exception is the herb saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). Unlike
other herbal supplements, it has been widely tested, and the results
show promise. However, it is important to know that saw palmetto is
recommended to treat the symptoms associated with benign prostate gland
enlargement, and not prostate cancer.
Saw palmetto is thought to work by preventing testosterone from breaking
down into another form of the hormone associated with prostate tissue
growth. In 1998, researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs
reviewed more than a dozen studies involving saw palmetto and concluded
that the herb appears to be as effective as the medication finasteride (Proscar)
in reducing the size of an enlarged prostate. It also appears to produce
fewer side effects. The researchers recommended additional studies to
determine the appropriate daily dosage of the supplement and its
Saw palmetto works slowly. Most men begin to see an improvement in their
urinary symptoms within one to three months. If after three months you
haven't noticed any benefit from the product, it may not work for you.
It appears safe to take saw palmetto indefinitely, but possible effects
from long-term use are unknown.
One drawback of this herb, and many other such herbal products, is that
it may suppress PSA levels in your blood. This action can interfere with
the effectiveness of the PSA test. That's why if you take saw palmetto
or other herbal medicines, it's important to tell your doctor before
having a PSA test.
few herbal and dietary products claim to help cure or prevent cancer.
There's no scientific evidence that these products work, and some may be
dangerous. Three popular "cancer-fighting" supplements include:
Also known as creosote bush or greasewood, chaparral (Larrea
tridentata) comes from a desert shrub found in the southwestern
United States and Mexico. Research of chaparral hasn't shown that
the herb effectively treats cancer, and it can lead to irreversible
This is an herbal mixture that has been marketed for treatment of
prostate cancer. It contains eight herbs: da qing ye (Isatis
indigotica), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza
uralensis), san qi (Panax pseudoginseng), reishi mushroom
(Ganoderma lucidum), Baikal skullcap (Scutellaria
baicalensis), chrysanthemum (Dendranthema morifolium),
dong ling cao (Rabdosia rubescens) and saw palmetto (Serenoa
repens). A study of PC-SPES published in 1998 in the New
England Journal of Medicine found that the product works like
estrogen supplements. It reduces concentrations of testosterone that
help fuel prostate cancer growth, and in some instances may suppress
the cancer, at least temporarily. However, the product commonly
produces impotence and breast tenderness. It can also cause blood
clots in deep leg veins and, if taken in large amounts, can be
toxic. Another concern with this product is that it can mask
progression of your cancer. It reduces PSA levels, even when the
cancer is advancing.
If your doctor is
unaware you're taking PC-SPES, PSA test results may lead him or her
to think that your cancer is under control, when it really is not.
The product's manufacturer, BotanicLab, recalled the supplement
temporarily beginning in February 2002 after questions were raised
by the California Department of Health Services. The California
agency said its testing had revealed the presence of undeclared
prescription drug ingredients in samples of PC-SPES. BotanicLab then
took steps it said would ensure the product's purity. This product
hasn't been reintroduced because of concerns regarding its safety
and its contamination with estrogenic compounds.
Shark cartilage contains a protein that has some ability to inhibit
the formation of new blood vessels within tumors in sharks. Shark
cartilage therapy is based on the theory that capsules containing
shark cartilage will do the same in humans — stop and shrink
cancerous tumors. However, these benefits haven't been shown in
Because it's not always easy to tell which products may be unsafe,
interact negatively with other medications or affect your overall cancer
treatment, it's best to talk with your doctor before taking any dietary
or herbal product.
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