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Guys – time to check your plumbing?

As the month of “Movember” is in full swing, and my sad attempt at a mustache fills in little by little, I thought it important to discuss something that doesn’t necessarily get a lot of attention – Men’s Health. The Movember campaign has been great at drawing attention to many aspects of men’s health, raising awareness, funding for research and treatment, and I believe has rallied men to become more proactive when it comes to their own health. The old adage of “men see a doctor only when their leg has been bitten off and they’ve been lying in a ditch for 3 days” is starting to shift as guys become savvier with their health and wellness. The title of this talk is “guys – time to check your plumbing?” and so I specifically want to speak to the issue of prostate health and prostate cancer concerns in men. Depending on who you listen to, cancer is now the leading cause of death is western society and will affect 1 in 3 of us in our lifetime. Not good. Prostate cancer specifically is the most common cancer in Canadian men, and it is estimated in 2019 that there will be 23,000 new cases and over 4,000 deaths related to the disease. That’s a lot! The key for us guys around age 50 is to get in prevention mode – recognize the early warning signs and get some baseline bloodwork in some key areas. The rate of 5-year survival from early detection is approximately 98%, while 5-year survival with late detection is only 26%. So, here are some common signs and symptoms of prostate concerns;

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
  • Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Difficulty in having an erection
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs

In addition to recognizing any of the above symptoms, it’s a good idea around age 50 (45 if any history) to get a routine blood test that also involves looking at a marker for prostate called PSA (prostate specific antigen). PSA is a protein secreted by the prostate and can become elevated in states of infection, inflammation, BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and cancer. A general score of 3 ng/ml or less is considered decent, with higher values indicating that there is something going on in the prostate. A high value does not necessarily mean cancer – it is about knowing your PSA score and your symptom picture as to what the next steps are to be. From a prevention standpoint, there are some good formulas out on the market as well as some key supplements to consider insuring a healthy prostate. Guys moving towards their 50s may want to consider testing and increasing their dose of vitamin D. Vitamin D has been shown to slow the rise of PSA as well as being an anti-cancer agent.

Along with supplementation – getting out in nature for your vitamin D dose is also important. From the NIH – National Cancer Institute site;

“According to a 2006 study, PSA levels rise at a slower rate during spring and summer than at other times of the year; this may be related to higher vitamin D levels obtained during those months. One study found that while men with low levels of sun exposure had increased risk of all prostate cancers, among men with prostate cancer, less sun exposure was associated with a lower risk of advanced disease. Results of a meta-analysis, published in the same report, showed that men with low sun exposure had an increased risk of incident and advanced prostate cancer.”

Some herbal medicines can also be good prevention when it comes to prostate health. For example, Saw Palmetto is a common herb used for prostatic concerns related to BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia). In a 2009 study, the efficacy of saw palmetto was compared to finasteride, a common drug to treat BPH, and was found to have similar improvement scores with fewer side effects. In another study of that same year regarding prostate cancer, saw palmetto was shown to selectively induce apoptosis (cell death) in prostate cancer cells via the intrinsic pathway activating a mitochondrial permeability transition pore. While there are many other potentials to list when it comes to prevention and treatment of the prostate, this blog was designed to get men thinking and acting when it comes to taking care of their own “plumbing”. I hope that if you are around the age of 50 like me, you will take proactive steps to recognize any changes in your system as well as to get tested for PSA so that you have a baseline to work from.

We at RHC are here for you and your health needs and are able to send you for any required tests as well as to have conversations about the results, any next steps, as well as preventative measures to ensure a healthy prostate for many years to come.

In Health,
Dr. Cameron McIntyre, ND

All content found on this website was created for informational and general educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your primary care provider or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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