Health & Wellbeing

Going Blue for Prostate Cancer

Going Blue for Prostate Cancer

With statistics showing 1 in 8 New Zealand men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, it is not difficult to see why it’s important to go blue for prostate cancer during the month of September. 

As one of the most diagnosed cancers in kiwi men, Blue September aims to raise funds for The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCFNZ) to support men and their families who are affected by prostate cancer. Funds go towards:

  • Raising and improving awareness for prostate cancer
  • Funding research for better diagnosis and treatment 
  • Advocating for improved health care
  • Providing support 

This Blue September, we share important information on prostate cancer including the common symptoms and outlook, as well as an overview of some of the side effects that men may face following treatment (spoiler: the side effects are usually only temporary!) 

What is Prostate Cancer? 

Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop in the prostate. While it is not known exactly what causes this, research does show that the development of these cells is stimulated by male hormones (testosterone) and that the speed in which the cells develop varies from man to man. Prostate cancer is often diagnosed in older men over the age of 50 and isn’t regularly diagnosed in those younger than 40. 

What are the Symptoms?

Prostate cancer often goes undiagnosed, due to a lack of symptoms altogether or due to the common signs often being similar to those experienced by older men related to other conditions. 

Common Symptoms Include: 
  • Feeling the frequent urge to urinate, especially at night or finding it difficult to urinate
  • Discomfort when urinating
  • Observing blood in the urine or semen
  • Lower back, thigh, hip, or bone pain
  • Unexpected weight loss
What is the Outlook?

Prostate cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in New Zealand men (apart from skin cancers), with around 4,000 men diagnosed each year. While this number is alarming, experts believe it is due to the increase in men being tested. 

Most prostate cancers will grow slowly and are usually confined to the prostate gland where they may not cause too much harm. Treatment is dependent on the stage of the disease, with some experts recommending an active surveillance approach for low grades where the cancer is confined to small area, progressing slowly and not causing any alarming symptoms. In this approach no treatment is commenced, and instead regular tests (blood tests, rectal exams and biopsies) are undertaken to monitor the status. 

Where higher-grade disease is involved or the disease has spread outside of the prostate, treatment may include surgery to remove the prostate, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted drug therapy. 

Statistics show that 95% of men will survive at least 5 years after diagnosis, and 91% will survive over 10 years. This highlights that with early detection and treatment you can expect to have a positive outcome, along with advances in treatments that have become more effective in improving outcomes.

Life after Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment: 

The most reported side effects following treatment for prostate cancer is changes to urinary, bowel, and sexual function. These unwanted side effects can vary from person to person and can result in psychological and emotional distress on top of dealing with the stress of the diagnosis. 

Urinary problems and issues with bladder control is one of the most common side effects experienced by men following surgery for prostate cancer. Issues can range from loss of bladder control to the feeling of being unable to fully empty the bladder. Pelvic floor exercises may be of benefit in helping to reduce the risk of incontinence. For many men, incontinence is only temporary, with most going on to regain control of their bladder within 6 to 12 months. 

Where on-going issues occur, products to help manage incontinence may be required. These products are specifically designed for men, and lock away urine so that you feel dry, comfortable, and odour-free. Different types of products include:

  • Pads designed specifically for men to be worn with your normal underwear. 
  • Washable garments designed to look and feel like normal underwear. Washable garments are waterproof and absorbent to assist with light incontinence.  
  • Skin care, when using incontinence products, it is important to ensure you are taking care of your skin and using appropriate products to effectively cleanse and protect the area from irritation and infection.

The product you require depends on the type of incontinence you are experiencing, and it is best to speak with your doctor, or seek advice from a continence nurse to ensure you select the most appropriate product. It is important to note that incontinence products are not a treatment and is designed to help manage any symptoms you are experiencing. 

You can support the work of PCFNZ and donate to Blue September here

Sources: 

https://fundraise.prostate.org.nz/event/blueseptember#

https://prostate.org.nz/prostate-cancer/

https://prostate.org.nz/dealing-with-treatment-side-effects

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prostate-cancer/symptoms-causes

https://www.continence.org.nz/pages/Continence-and-prostate

 

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