Robert Ntale, 46, screened for prostate cancer three years ago and set a target to go for screening every year on his birthday. He says he religiously eats a tomato every morning and eats a lot of other fruits and vegetables, perhaps heeding to the message of medics who continue calling on men approaching and above 40 years to screen for the cancer.
Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the prostate, a walnut-sized gland found right below the bladder. If it is not treated, prostate cancer follows a natural course, starting as a tiny group of cancer cells that can grow into a full-blown tumour. And if is not treated, it can spread and cause death.
This cancer is common in men of about 65 years and above. It is also associated with family history. According to Dr Fred Okuku, an oncologist at the Uganda Cancer Institute, there is one that manifests in men below 50 years which is very aggressive and kills if not treated early. In men above 50 years of age, the cancer is not aggressive but also kills if not treated early.
The signs or symptoms of prostate cancer cannot be easily assessed by the patient himself. This, therefore, makes the disease different from breast and testicular cancers, in which regular self-examination can be important in finding early signs of the disease.
The indicators of prostate cancer include, a need to urinate often, not being able to urinate, trouble starting to urinate or trouble holding back urination, a weak or interrupted urine flow and pain or a burning feeling during urination. Also see a doctor when you find difficulty having an erection, have pain during ejaculation, blood in the semen or in the urine and frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.
Dr Jackson Orem, the director of the Uganda Cancer Institute, says cases of prostate cancer are on the rise because men are not keen on screening programmes. Dr Okuku, stresses the importance of early screening because if the cancer is caught early, chances of cure are high.
Dr Henry Ddungu, a consultant oncologist/hematologist at the Uganda Cancer Institute, says prostate cancer is partly linked to lifestyle such as poor eating habits, smoking and lack of exercise. Amanda Twebase, a nutritionist, recommends that men approaching or in the prostate cancer bracket should consume more plant-based foods.
“Look out for bright coloured foods such as purple cabbage, green pepper, eggplant and beetroot. You should also take a lot of water and cut back your intake of animal produce,” Twebaze explains.
She further explains that coloured foods contain a lot of pigment chemicals that act as protective components in our bodies preventing oxidation. She also implores intake of natural herbs and spices such as ginger, garlic and turmeric and reducing the amount of oily foods in the diet.
Christopher Sengendo, the founder of Doctor’s Organic Pharmacy, explains that prevention and inhibition of prostate cancer can include a number of lifestyle changes and actions, which may involve embarking on a vegetarian diet, doing moderate exercises and making certain food and nutritional supplement choices.
“More specifically, there are various nutrients that have been shown to be effective in protecting against prostate cancer and inhibiting its development or progression,” he adds. Sengendo also says that using natural organic methods and following a healthy diet can increase the chances of better recovery among prostate cancer sufferers and slow its progression.
“The most effective remedies for prostate cancer include the use of fish oil (omega 3 supplements), foods rich in vitamin C, pomegranate juice, foods rich in zinc (pumpkin seeds, spinach, beans, mushrooms), cayenne pepper, turmeric, ginger, green tea, apples, broccoli, cauliflower and stinging nettle, among others.”
The foods, as he adds, contain natural cancer killing substances, which have been shown to inhibit cancer cells, induce cancer cell death, or inhibit cancer cell multiplication.
Twebaze and Sengendo point to detoxification as a remedy to rid the body of toxins in order not to interfere with our ability to heal. “Removing toxins from our bodies can be accomplished by mild exercises, sweating, and regular bowel movements. Fruits and vegetables that assist in detoxification and liver health include beetroot, carrots, spinach and broccoli, among others,” Sengendo recommends.
There are many ways you can positively influence your health. Lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise, and smoking or drinking, are influenced by habit, culture, and preferences and are different for each individual.
Everyday the foods you choose to eat and the amount of physical activity you get can impact your overall health as well as your prostate cancer risk, recovery, and survival.
A report titled ‘Burden at the Uganda Cancer Institute’, authored by Fred Okuku, Jackson Orem, George Holoya, Chris De Boer, Cheryl L. Thompson, and Matthew M. Cooney indicates that the incidence of prostate cancer is increasing at a rate of 5.2 per cent annually. The findings by the medical doctors state that prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in Africa and the third most common cancer overall with 59,500 incident cases per year (16.4 per cent of all cancer in men).
Prostate cancer can be clinically screened in different ways but most common is by removal of a blood sample for a Prostate Specific Antigen. It is curable once it has not exceeded certain range. It can also be screened through a rectal examination – the physician can use a finger through the anus to tell whether the prostate gland is enlarged or abnormal.
Alcohol and prostate cancer
Large amounts of alcohol consumption may put you at higher risk of developing prostate cancer. In the US, researchers, using data from more than 10,000 men participating in the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, uncovered that heavy alcohol drinkers were twice as likely to be diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer as moderate drinkers.
Heavy drinkers are defined as those who consume more than three drinks a day or more than 20 drinks a week.
For men, the recommendation for drinks per days is no more than two. A single drink is equal to:
• 12 ounces of regular beer (five per cent alcohol)
• 5 ounces of wine (12 per cent alcohol)
• 1.5 ounces of a hard liquor (40 per cent alcohol)
There are many other drinks you can choose instead alcohol. These include:
• Water or sparkling water mixed with fresh fruit juice.
• Non-alcoholic beers or wines.
•Tea or coffee.