Prostate cancer

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Digital Rectal Exam (DRE).jpg

Prostrate cancer is the number two cancer Filipino men die from after lung cancer. It is a disease afflicting males wherein abnormal or cancer cells crowd the normal cells in the prostrate gland which produces a milky fluid that becomes part of the semen.


Signs and symptoms

The disease’s symptoms vary from one person to the next. Some do not develop symptoms especially when the cancer is in its first stages of development. Symptoms are often similar to urinary tract diseases which include:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Weak, interrupted flow of urine, or dribbling
  • Frequent urination especially during the night
  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating
  • Bloody urine or semen
  • Chronic pain in the lower back, hips or pelvis
  • Painful ejaculation

Causes and risk factors

The cause of prostate cancer is still uncertain however, several risk factors are:

  • Age – men aged 40 and above. It is rare in men younger than 40.
  • Diet
  • Medical history

Although there are available research studies which explain several risk factors, it is still unclear why one man develops the disease and another does not. While the cause is uncertain, it is highly likely that men who has family members who developed the disease have twice the risk of developing prostate cancer than the average male.

Another potential cause medical scientists are looking at is the role of high-fat diets. In countries where a low-fat diet of vegetable and fish are the staple—like Japan—incidents are historically low. However, due to the diet westernization phenomenon, incidents of prostate cancer are on the rise.

Diagnosis and tests

Prostate cancer just like most diseases has better chances of recovery if detected early. The two tests usually used to diagnose prostate cancer are:

  • Digital rectal exam (DRE) – it is the only test to detect prostrate abnormalities. This examination is recommended for men aged 40 and above. The physician inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel the size, shape and firmness of the prostrate and watch out for any abnormally firm area.
  • Prostate specific antigen test (PSA) – PSA is a substance produced by the prostrate and its levels may be higher in the blood in men with prostate cancer. However, PSA levels may also increase in other prostrate problems such as prostrate infections, enlarged prostate and some medical procedures. This test is normally recommended for men who are 50 and above.


Upon detection of prostate cancer, there are many treatment options available. The mode of treatment highly depends on the severity and the need. Treatments include:

In some cases recently, doctors may recommend active surveillance as a feasible option for men who do not want to undergo immediate treatment. It is a good choice for patients whose prostate cancer that are very slow growing or at the earliest stage of development. It entails careful monitoring of progression signs plus PSA and DRE. If in case symptoms develop, treatment can be given.

Prevention and control

There is no exact method of fully preventing prostate cancer however, healthy practices which help maintain a healthy prostrate include:

  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Getting sufficient exercise
  • Losing excess weight
  • Quitting smoking and drinking
  • Intake of omega-3 fatty acids – taking sufficient levels can counter toxic fat in the body and help reduce prostrate inflammation.
  • Intake of zinc – minute levels (15 to 30 mg daily) of zinc is necessary for optimum prostrate health but, excess amounts can cause adverse effects to the prostrate.

Cases in the Philippines

In 2005, former senator Raul Roco passed away from prostate cancer. Meanwhile, former congressman Jose Yap died of the same disease in 2010.

According to Enrique Ona of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), 19.3 out of 100,000 Filipino male population have prostate cancer. Due to the rising number of reported incidents, June was declared as the Prostate Cancer Awareness Month by the Department of Health (DOH).