Prostate Cancer Today

Prostate Cancer Today
Dr. Judith O'Malley-Ford General Practitioner Brisbane, Queensland

I am a graduate of the University of Qld, and also hold a Master of Public Health and hold a fellowship of the College of General Practitioners, as well as being an examiner for the College of General Practitioners. My thesis for the Masters qualification was on asthma. I am an internationally published bestselling medical... more

New Technology for Men's Health

The 21st century is well upon us, and the scientific and health landscape is rapidly changing, yet there are still new horizons to conquer. The final frontier does not lie in a distant galaxy. It is much closer to home. Look no further than the place where men fear to tread: Men’s Health.

The prostate gland, which rarely sees the light of day, is suddenly in the spotlight and cancer is the focus. Prostate cancer is not just a disease of men, but a disease of couples, especially when issues of manhood and masculinity are at stake. Surgery for prostate cancer may result in erectile problems and urinary incontinence. These make up the very fabric that constitutes masculinity, wherein lies the reluctance to contemplate prostate screening.

Can men learn to address this difficult topic, or are they too often reluctant to discuss it until it is too late?

New Advances

Advances in technology have been the driving force to further advances in medical treatments. The slow trickle of progress in newly found horizons of information has suddenly become a torrent of new information. Advancements in new ways of thinking and solving the reluctance of men to undergo prostate screening and treatment are major steps forward for all men. All of which is good news for managing the medical problems facing an ageing population in the future.

Early Diagnosis

Early diagnosis of prostate cancer remains critical, as it does with all cancers, to ensure the best possible outcome for men. However, there is not an official government-sponsored and endorsed prostate screening program.

Men per se are not likely to be seen carrying placards, descending on Parliament, and demanding a prostate screening program.

Finding ways of minimizing the unwanted effects of surgery is another vital step in the quest for diagnosing and treating prostate cancer. Often, some cancers can present at a time when the disease is already advanced. Prostate cancer is one of a few cancers where this applies. Some families carry an inherited risk for certain cancers in their DNA, which predisposes them to these diseases, e.g. prostate cancer, breast cancer, and bowel cancer.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Symptoms of prostate cancer may  be inter-related and not necessarily occur in isolation from one another. Symptoms of prostate disease may be slow to develop. They may progressively increase over several years, so you don’t notice their presence. On the other hand, the onset of symptoms may be so gradual that you forget that it wasn’t always like this.

Some men with prostate cancer may report experiencing no symptoms, but careful questioning by a knowledgeable physician usually yields some warning signs.

A partner or family member may notice these changes before the patient acknowledges them. A spouse may notice her husband is waking more in the night to pass urine, or taking longer in the toilet than usual, or going more often.  Some men are reluctant to discuss personal matters in the presence of other family members due to embarrassment. Partners and family members contribute information that helps your doctor, and they may provide support for you during medical assessments and investigations.

Symptoms of prostate infection may be the first indication of a prostate problem.

Pros and Cons of Surgery

There is a great debate about the pros and cons of surgical intervention for some men with prostate cancer. The basis for this argument is that the disease will outlive the patient. But more recently we are being told that we will outlive our superannuation savings, and increasing numbers of us will live to a hundred. These two previous statements are therefore incongruous and counter-intuitive to the trend of inactivity we are seeing in screening for prostate cancer and early treatment.

Common Fears

People are afraid of the ‘c’ word, in any of its many forms, and so why should prostate cancer warrant no action in some cases? Some reasons are offered, but in reality, fear of the side-effects of surgical intervention and the absence of a reliable diagnostic test are the basis of this fear, and rightly so. New discoveries that improve the diagnostic power of a screening test for prostate cancer are powerful tools for the future of early diagnosis, and the basis of scientific methodology in new treatment methods. As the population ages, the incidence of cancer is expected to become a more significant factor in the lives of people everywhere. Some have said that we are facing a cancer epidemic in the future, therefore early diagnosis has never been more imperative.

Futuristic

It is a great step forward for the world of medicine and the community when a whole new diagnostic method becomes available for the early diagnosis and ongoing treatment monitoring in cancer. Creative thinking and original thought often challenge the status quo. Creative thinking needs support from like-minded people regardless of their scientific discipline. Embracing new technology produces important new principles in problem-solving. Cancer will affect family life, business, personal finances, and national productivity. We all have a role to play. With the right tools, cancer screening in the future will include prostate cancer. In the future, large investments will be made in combating this disease.

We are improving women’s health without question. Women have embraced the concept of screening which they do for breast screening and cervical screening.

We have the ability to improve men’s health in the future. We should seize every opportunity. Knowledge and far-sighted visions are the dreams that enabled man to walk on the moon, and spacecraft to land on Mars. It enabled another spacecraft to track down a comet zooming through space. This is the wonder of science. Scientific technology and knowledge are constantly expanding and thus, using technology to improve diagnostic methods for prostate cancer should be within our reach.

Judith O'Malley-Ford

Judith is a full-time GP, award-winning author, and recently published author of book on prostate cancer entitled "The Secret Stalker of the Prostate". She is a former editor of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia monthly magazine, and a committee member of the Asthma Foundation. She has a Master of Public Health and is a fellow and examiner of the RACGP.

Morris Publishing Australia