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HEALTHY REASONING: Exercise Can Benefit Prostate Cancer Survivors

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HEALTHY REASONING: Exercise Can Benefit Prostate Cancer Survivors

By Allan Bucka Jones
PRIDE Health Columnist

Allan G JonesOne in eight men in Canada are affected by prostate cancer; and Black men have even higher rates. With the increased vigilance around detecting prostate cancer, more and more men are surviving prostate cancer.

A recent study out of Northwestern University in Chicago, found that early-stage prostate cancer survivors may be able to improve their health-related quality of life by walking casually, about 3.2 kph, at least three hours a week.

Researchers tracked 1,917 men treated for prostate cancer — an average of eight and a half years earlier — with either surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy or active surveillance. When compared with more sedentary survivors, the walkers had significant improvements in depression, body-weight issues and fatigue, all side effects of their cancer treatment.

Even men who walked only one-and-a-half hours a week, but at a faster pace (4.8 to 6.3 kph), saw similar health benefits.

But, men who walked less than 90 minutes a week ,at an easy pace, did not see the same gains, suggesting that there is a point where too little exercise no longer provides the same benefits.

Additionally, men who walked at brisker strides (6.5 kph or faster), regardless of duration, reported improvements in urinary incontinence and sexual function.

None of the men who walked three hours a week, however, saw a lessening of other side effects associated with prostate treatment, including bowel dysfunction, weakened muscle strength and low bone density.

Overall, these findings bode well for prostate cancer survivors seeking a better health-related quality of life and who can’t perform high-impact, vigorous activities or who lack the motivation to stick with a more intense routine

All men are born with a prostate gland. The prostate gland, normally the size of a walnut, is a part of the male reproductive system. Its function is to add nutrients and fluid to sperm. It is located below the bladder, in front of the rectum, and surrounds the urethra. The urethra is the tube that runs through the middle of the penis, and carries urine and semen.

Because the prostate gland surrounds the urethra, any increase in size of the prostate gland will have a tendency to press on the urethra and can potentially restrict urine flow. When urine flow is restricted, it eventually makes the bladder extremely sensitive and will sometimes give the sensation that it is full. You now get the urge to urinate, only to realize you will only eliminate a small volume of urine.

The prostate gland in men, transition from a quiet non-growing gland, to a problematic growing gland at around age 50. An enlarged prostate can cause a man to have frequent and urgent need to urinate. This enlarged prostate is referred to as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The benign description means BPH is not cancerous. A man with BPH will not necessarily develop prostate cancer.

For all men, 45 years old and more, screening for prostate cancer is vital because once detected, 90% of prostate cancer cases are treatable. The screening process, which includes a prostate gland examination and a blood test, should be part of a man’s annual check-up.

There are two critical tests to screen for prostate cancer. PSA Test (Prostate Specific Antigen test) – PSA is a protein made by the cells of the prostate gland. PSA is mostly found in semen, but it is also normal to find small amounts of PSA in the blood of healthy men.

The PSA test measures the amount of PSA in a blood sample taken from the man’s arm. A small amount of blood is taken and the process is relatively painless. The test may be done when the doctor suspects prostate cancer because of a man’s health history or the results of a physical examination.

A PSA test may also detect early prostate cancer in men who do not have symptoms. An increased PSA level does not necessarily mean that a man has prostate cancer.

Black man exercisingOnly about 1 in 4 men with an abnormal PSA result will actually have prostate cancer. The other three will have a benign condition, such as prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) or an enlarged prostate gland (BPH).

PSA acts as a tumour marker (a substance that can be found in the body when cancer is present). Doctors watch the trend rather than a single PSA reading. Your doctor is best able to interpret the result of your PSA test. If you are 45 or older you should do the PSA test, at least once a year.

Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) — A digital rectal examination is done to check the consistency of the prostate gland in men. The doctor checks for enlargement of the prostate gland and other abnormalities.

A non-cancerous prostate gland would feel spongy and a cancerous gland would have a lumpy granular feel. There are situations when the prostate can feel normal but is cancerous.  A DRE is often done with a PSA test to detect prostate cancer early.

Many men do not want to do this examination because it involves inserting at least two inches of a gloved finger into the man’s rectum. Entry through the rectum, is the best access point to manipulate and feel the prostate gland.

My advice to these men, is to get over this fear or phobia because the digital rectal examination could save your life.

Prostate cancer is a serious matter…It is time for men to take responsibility and get screened for this devastating disease.

The good news is that many men who are prostate cancer survivors can, through regular walking, improve the negativities associated with their cancer treatment.

Men 45 years old, and over, please make an appointment to do your prostate screening test as soon as possible.

Allan Bucka Jones is a Health Promoter and Broadcaster. You can contact Allan Bucka Jones at allan@jonesandjones.ca

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