Learning about Prostate Cancer

The leading diagnosis of cancer in men over the age of 60 is prostate cancer.  It affects about one-fourth of men diagnosed with some type of cancer, and can be a devastating diagnosis for seniors.  If you have a senior loved one, it is helpful to understand this disease, the risk factors and prevention, as well as treatment options that your family member may have.

What is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer is a slow-growing type of cancer that introduces cancerous cells into the prostate.  It can spread to other areas of the body, but always begins in the prostate.

In its earliest stages, prostate cancer does not have any symptoms.  Once it has progressed, men may notice certain signs of the disease that include:

  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Urgency when needing to urinate
  • Difficulty in beginning or stopping urination or the feeling that your bladder is not empty
  • Inability to urinate
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Blood in urine

These signs could also be related to other issues, but it is important to get them checked out.

Risk Factors and Diagnosis

Two tests can be performed to detect the presence of prostate cancer before any physical symptoms are present.  The first is a physical examination by your doctor called a Digital Rectal Examination.  The second test is a blood test called the Prostate Specific Antigen test.  Researchers in Great Britain are working on a possible urine test for the future.

It is recommended that all men over the age of 50 get an annual examination, and those with more risk factors should begin even sooner.

While there isn’t a single cause for prostate cancer, certain factors increase your risk of developing it at some point.  These risk factors include:

  • Family history
  • Age – 80% of cases occur after 60
  • African, with Caucasians second on the list
  • Obesity
  • A high-fat diet
  • Being inactive
  • Work with cadmium in manufacturing

Some of these risk factors are beyond your control, while others can be improved with lifestyle changes.  If you have a senior loved one at risk for prostate cancer, you might want to discuss with them ways they can improve their overall health.  Not only will it help to lower the risk, but it can also make them healthier if they should need to fight the disease.

What Happens After Diagnosis?

If your senior family member is diagnosed with prostate cancer, the doctor will determine what stage it is in and then suggest a treatment plan.  Four major treatment options exist today with each one have several variations within it.  Your doctor may suggest one or more options as part of your overall treatment plan.

Surgery is the most invasive option, but the goal is to remove the prostate and all cancerous tissues in the surrounding area.  This is the most common treatment and works well if the cancer is confined to the prostate.

Radiation or hormonal therapy are two other choices for treatment and may be used in conjunction with surgery or as a standalone option.  The final approach to treatment is just watching the cancer and doing nothing.  Since it is a slow-growing cancer, this approach is often taken with older men who have other significant health problems.

Many people think of chemotherapy as a treatment for cancer, but it is not often used in prostate cancer unless the cancer has spread to other areas.

What a Cancer Patient Needs

Treatment can often be difficult for seniors who are already in declining health.  They may not feel like doing the same things they did before diagnosis.  They may need assistance with running errands or preparing meals if they are tired and lack the energy.

Seniors diagnosed with prostate cancer also need emotional support.  Cancer in any form is a shocking diagnosis and can be scary for the patient and their family caregivers.  Joining a support group can be helpful and provide a place where they can discuss their feelings.

Homecare services can also be helpful during this time.  Caregivers can perform many tasks that were previously handled by the senior or their family.  If you are taking them to doctor appointments or treatment, you may need more assistance with daily chores.

Carefect homecare services provide excellent care for seniors diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Our caregivers can prepare meals, run errands, do light housekeeping, and assist with personal care.  We understand that this is a difficult time in the senior’s life and strive to make it easier with our support.  Our caregivers can also provide companionship and respite care to give family members a break.