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Prostate cancer is the second most common and second most deadly form of cancer among men in the world. The prostate gland is a doughnut-shaped cluster of glands located at the bottom of the bladder about halfway between the rectum and the base of the penis. The prostate is not essential for life but is important for reproduction. The main function of the prostate gland is to store and produce seminal fluid. Seminal fluid is a milky liquid that transports and nourishes sperm. For normal functioning of the prostate it requires male hormones, like testosterone, to help regulate bladder control and normal sexual functioning.

Prostate Cancer Ribbon

Prostate Cancer Ribbon

Prostate cancer is cancer affecting the prostate gland. Prostate cancer grows slowly and may not spread for many years. The older you are the more likely you are to develop prostate cancer. It is rare in men younger than 40 years of age. Risk factors for developing prostate cancer include being over 65 years of age, family history of prostate cancer and some genetic factors. Blacks have been shown to also have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. One of the common myths on the risk of prostate cancer is high levels of sexual activity or frequent ejaculation. The fact is, some studies have shown that men who report more frequent ejaculations may have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. In addition, having a vasectomy was originally thought to increase a man’s risk to develop prostate cancer, but this has since been disproved.

The main symptoms of prostate cancer include; Problems with passing urine e.g., pain during urination, difficulty starting or stopping the stream; loss of weight and appetite; blood in urine; painful ejaculation and lower back pain. Diagnosis of prostate cancer is made by feeling the prostate through the wall of the rectum during a digital rectal examination or doing a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Other tests include ultrasound, x-rays, or a biopsy.

Treatment often depends on the stage of the cancer and a combination of treatments might be used. There is no “one size fits all” treatment for prostate cancer. Men with prostate cancer have many treatment options. The treatment that’s best for one man may not be best for another. The options include watchful waiting also known as active surveillance where the prostate cancer is carefully watched for any progression and if there are changes then treatment is started; prostatectomy which is the surgical removal of all or part of the prostate; radiation therapy; hormone therapy also known as androgen-deprivation therapy or ADT, is designed to stop testosterone from being released or to prevent it from acting on the prostate cells. Testosterone is the main fuel for prostatic cells growth; and chemotherapy. Depending on the treatment strategy used, side effects might be witnessed. These include; Urinary dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, erectile dysfunction, loss of fertility, side effects of hormone therapy and side effects of chemotherapy

A regular prostate exam can help with early detection of prostate cancer. The question of screening is a personal and complex one. When to start screening is generally based on individual risk, with age 40 being a reasonable time to start screening for those at highest risk.

Other conditions affecting the prostate gland that are of importance include prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland. It is often the result of infectious bacteria that invades the prostate from another area of the body. Benign prostatic hyperplasia is a non cancerous growth of the prostate that can interfere with urination. Symptoms include: urgent feeling to urinate, weak urinary stream, frequent need to urinate, and involuntary discharge of urine.

Cancer and Nutrition

Most health problems are unavoidable but the truth is we have more control of our health than we may think. One’s lifestyle and food choices can aid in fighting off cancer regardless of whether he or she has a family history of the disease or are already suffering from the disease.

Most cancer cases are directly related to unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle and habits such as smoking and excessive drinking. What one eats or does not eat has a great influence on the health which includes the risk of developing cancer.

Whereas some foods will increase cancer risk; there are other food choices that will support the body as well as boost the immune system. The food that one consumes influences the risk of many cancers such as those of stomach, mouth, food pipe, bowel and breast.

This risk is reduced by consuming a healthy and balanced diet.Image

1.       Plant-based diet

Plant-based foods are regarded as cancer-fighting powerhouses since they contain less fat, have more fiber and have more nutrients that fight cancer. These three constituents work together to support immune system and aid the body in fighting off cancer. The diet constitutes a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It is advisable that these foods be taken in their most natural state as possible to achieve full benefits i.e. they should be less processed for example eat a mango instead  of mango juice, be minimally cooked, less peeled and do not mix with other ingredients. Two thirds of your plate should be filled with whole grains, beans, vegetables or a fruit whereas meat, fish and other dairy products should not be more than a third of the plate.

2.       Saturated and unsaturated fats

Saturated and Trans fats (partially hydrogenated) are two most damaging fats as they increase the risk of cancer. They are mainly found in animal sources such as whole dairy products, eggs and red meat.  Cutting down on red meat automatically reduces amount of unhealthy fats. Unsaturated fats on the other hand are from plant source and very healthy. They include olive oil, nuts, avocados and canola oil. You can avoid bad fats by trimming excess fats off meat; reduce intake of red meat and other dairy products, choose leaner meat like fish and limit intake of fast foods.

3.        Fiber

Also known as roughage or bulk is part of the plant found in fruits, vegetables and grains and cannot be digested by the body. Fiber keeps the digestive system clean and healthy as well as aid in moving food through the digestive system. By doing this it also moves out the compounds that cause cancer before they cause harm. The more unprocessed and natural the food is, the more the roughage it contains. Examples of high fiber, cancer-fighting foods include legumes e.g. black beans, kidney beans and lentils. Fruits e.g. apples, pears, mango, e.t.c.  Whole grains e.g. oatmeal, popcorns, brown rice, whole bread, and whole-wheat pasta. Vegetables e.g. dark green leafy vegetables, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, peas e.t.c are all a good source of fiber.

4.       Cancer-fighting diet

There are certain ingredients present in food that aid in strengthening the immunity as well as protect against cancer.

  • Antioxidants- these are powerful vitamins that fight against cancer and also help body cells work optimally. They include beta-carotene, vitamin E and C, selenium and are majorly found in fruits and vegetables.
  • Phytochemicals- these nutrients fight disease and boost immunity. Found in colorful vegetables and fruits. Different colors have different phytochemicals.
  • Some flavors and spices contain cancer-fighting nutrients e.g. ginger, garlic, turmeric, rosemary, basil and coriander.
  • Water is essential in stimulating immune system, removing waste and toxins as well as transporting nutrients to the body organs.

5.         Carcinogens

These are substances that are likely to cause cancer. They can be natural e.g. aflatoxin or be found in chemicals such as pesticides. Organic and locally grown produce are considered carcinogen-free.

6.       Obesity/overweight /exercise

Many types of cancer are related to overweight and obesity e.g. breast, bowel and womb cancers. The fat tissues in people who are obese or overweight may produce high levels of hormones such as insulin and estrogen which can in turn increase risk of certain types of cancers. It is thus important that one maintains a healthy weight and keep their BMI at check. Being physically active is very beneficial to our health since is reduces the cancer risk. Moderate activity such as brisk walking and dancing will not cost you much but will rather add you health.

Healthy living may not be a guarantee against cancer but it’s a sure way of reducing its risks.

Ovarian Cancer

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A woman has two ovaries from either sides of the uterus that are responsible for producing eggs, the female hormones estrogen, progesterone as well as testosterone.

As the name suggests, ovarian cancer is a form of cancer that originates from the ovaries. Ovarian cancer normally remains undetected until it has spread within the abdomen and the pelvis. This is a fatal stage as it is difficult to treat it.

Symptoms

Ovarian cancer has no specific symptoms unique to the disease and they are usually a mimic of several other conditions such as digestive problems.

Generally, ovarian cancer is exhibited by:

  • Abdominal pressure,
  • Fullness,
  • Bloating or Swelling,
  • Discomfort in the pelvic,
  • Change in bowel behavior such as constipation,
  • Recurrent indigestion,
  • Gas or Nausea,
  • Change in bladder habits such as frequent need to urinate,
  • Recurrent lack of energy,
  • Lower back pain,
  • Loss of appetite or feeling full fast, and
  • Increased abdominal girth characterized by clothes fitting tighter around the waist.

One should see a doctor immediately they experience any of these symptoms. A family history of ovarian cancer increases the risk for the disease. If there is such history, it’s good to see a doctor to discuss testing of possible gene mutations that heighten the risk for ovarian and breast cancer.

Causes

There’s no known cause for ovarian cancer. Cancer usually starts when healthy cells acquire a genetic mutation that transforms normal cells into abnormal cells. Healthy or normal cells grow and multiply at a controlled rate and die at a definite time. However, cancer cells grow and multiply uncontrollably and do not die at a definite time. As abnormal cells accumulate, they form a tumor (mass of abnormal cells). These cancer cells invade neighboring tissues and can break off from an original tumor to spread in some other parts of the body in a process called metastasize.

Types of Ovarian Cancer

Depending on the origin of cancerous cells, it determines what type of ovarian cancer one has. They include:

  • Epithelial tumors: this is cancer that begins in the thin layers of tissues on the exterior of the ovaries. This type of cancer is the most common.
  • Germ cell tumors: this is cancer that originates from the egg producing cells and is usually common in young women.
  • Stromal tumors: This cancer begins in the ovarian tissue that produces the hormones progesterone, estrogen and testosterone.

Knowing the type of ovarian cancer that one has is useful in determining prognosis and treatment.

Risk factors

There are certain factors that increase the chances of having ovarian cancer. However, it is not a guarantee to have ovarian cancer if a woman has one or more of these factors, but it increases the risk of having it than for an average woman. The risks include;

  • Inherited gene mutation: the genes known to increase chances of ovarian cancer are known as breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). The genes were identified in families with histories of breast cancer but have also been linked to increased risk of ovarian cancer. In addition, there is also a gene relation to ovarian cancer associated with hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) which increases the risk of cancers of the colon, endometrium, stomach, and of the ovaries. Genetic mutation accounts for a considerably lower portion of ovarian cancer cases.
  • Increasing age: the risk of ovarian cancer increases with age. Most ovarian cancers occur after menopause.
  • Family history of ovarian cancer: if there are women in your family who have had ovarian cancer, you then have a higher risk of the disease.
  • Never being pregnant: Women who have never been pregnant have a higher risk developing of ovarian cancer.

A past cancer diagnosis: if you have been diagnosed with another form of cancer especially colon, breast, uterus or rectum cancers, the risk for ovarian cancer is high.

 Diagnosis

Ovarian cancer can be diagnosed through pelvic examination, ultrasound, surgery to remove tissue samples for testing, or CA 125 blood test.  After diagnosis ovarian cancer can be staged and treatment option determined.

  • Stage I. Ovarian cancer is limited to one or both ovaries.
  • Stage II. Ovarian cancer has spread to other parts of the pelvis, such as the fallopian tubes or the uterus.
  • Stage III. Ovarian cancer has spread beyond the pelvis or to the lymph nodes in the abdomen.
  • Stage IV. Ovarian cancer has spread to organs beyond the abdomen, such as the liver or the lungs.

Usually stages III and IV are lethal although they can be treated with proper technology. Ovarian cancer treatments include surgery which is an extensive operation that may entail the removal of ovaries, uterus and the fallopian tubes and other areas around the uterus that the cancer may have spread into. Chemotherapy may also be performed even after surgery.

 Ultimately cancer is an agonizing ailment and patients need care and support in order to cope and recover.

Constipation or Blood in Stool! Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (the colon) while rectal cancer is the cancer of the last tip of the colon. Cases of colon cancer usually start as small noncancerous clumps of cells called adenomatous polyps which lead to colon cancer.

Polyps are small and usually do not exhibit any symptoms, which is the reason why people should be screened regularly to prevent colon cancer by identifying polyps before they develop into colon cancer.

Symptoms of Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is characterized by:

  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool,
  • Weakness or fatigue,
  • Unaccountable weight loss,
  • A feeling that your bowel does not completely empty, and
  • A change in bowel habits including constipation or diarrhea or change in stool consistency.

Most people with colon cancer do not experience these symptoms during initial stages of the disease. When the symptoms occur, they vary depending on the size and location of the cancer in the large intestine.

Causes

There’s is no known cause for colon cancer. However it results from abnormal formation of calls which causes a tumor in the large intestine. The following can be classified as the causes of colon cancer:

  • Precancerous growth in the colon: cancer of the colon normally begins as clumps of polyps (precancerous cells) on the inner lining of the colon. Removing polyps before they mature to cancerous state can help prevent cancer.
  • Inherited gene mutation that raises the risk for colon cancer: a small percentage of colon cancer is associated with inherited genes. Presence of inherited genes does not guarantee colon cancer, but only increases the risk. The inherited cancer of the colon syndromes include;
  1. Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP): a rare disorder that leads to development of polyps inside the colon and the rectum. People with untreated FAP are known to increase colon cancer likelihood before age 40.
  2. Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC): increases the risk of colon and other forms of cancer. People with this mutation are known to develop colon cancer before the age of 50.

Fortunately, FAP and HNPCC can be detected through genetic testing and treated where necessary.

Risk Factors

  • Old age: The risk for colon cancer increases with age. Majority of patients are older than 50 years.
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions: inflammatory diseases of the colon, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, increase the risk of colon cancer.
  • A personal history of polyps or colorectal cancer: If you’ve already had colon cancer or adenomatous polyps, you have a greater risk of colon cancer in the future.
  • Family history of colon polyps or cancer: people from families with a history of the disease are at an increased risk of colon cancer.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Individual who are inactive are more likely to develop colon cancer, hence exercising may help prevent it.
  • Diabetes: if you have diabetes and insulin resistance raises the risk.
  • Low fiber, high fat diet: colon cancer is associated with low fiber diet and high fat content.

Other risk factors entail, obesity, smoking, alcohol and radiation therapy for cancer.

Test and Diagnosis

If you exhibit signs of colon cancer, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests and procedures;

  • Blood tests,
  • Using multiple CT images to create a picture of the colon,
  • Using a scope to examine the inside of the colon, and
  • Using dye and X-ray to make a picture of the colon.

Treatment

Colon ranges from stages I-IV and its treatment depends on the stage at which it is. The three basic treatments for colon cancer are:

  • Surgery,
  • Chemotherapy,
  • Radiation and
  • Targeted drug therapy.

Alternative treatments

Once diagnosed with colon cancer, a person may feel sad, distressed, loss of sleep and appetite, difficult in concentrating. Alternative treatments may offer temporal relief. They entail art therapy, dance and movement therapy, meditation, music therapy, relaxation exercises and other exercises.

Prevention

Colon cancer can be prevented.

  • One should have screening for polyps to treat them before they develop into cancer.
  • Eating healthy foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grain
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Exercising is also important in maintaining a healthy weight

Finally, like any other cancer form, colon cancer is agonizing and the patient requires lots of support and care. It is good to establish positive attitude in order to overcome the disease by undertaking the right treatment.