Is prostate cancer curable? The reality is that many prostate cancers are slow growing and require only monitoring, without medical treatment.
Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer in men. Worldwide, nearly a million new cases are diagnosed every year, and research suggests that it occurs in Western nations at nearly six times the rate of non-Western nations.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Most of these cases occur after age 65. The average age for developing prostate cancer is 66, and very few men will develop the disease before age 40.
However, most of these cases do not prove fatal. In fact, more than 2.9 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive today. That’s because there are a variety of medical treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you beat prostate cancer.
Treatments for prostate cancer
An old adage goes: “If they live to be old enough, most men will die with prostate cancer, but few men will die because of prostate cancer.”
Is prostate cancer curable? The reality is that many prostate cancers are slow growing and require only monitoring, without medical treatment. A course of no intervention may have no effect on quality or quantity of life, and avoids the risk of side effect from medical treatment. Your oncologist will be able to advise what’s best for you.
If cancer cells have not spread outside the prostate gland, surgery is a common option. Known as radical prostatectomy, this procedure removes the prostate gland and some of the surrounding tissue.
If surgery is unable to fully remove the cancer, your doctor may suggest radiation therapy, or using high-energy particles to kill the cancer cells. Radiation may also be used in combination with hormone therapy, which involves using surgery or drugs to suppress your body’s androgen production. Androgens, such as testosterone, are hormones that stimulate the growth of cancer cells in the prostate.
If the cancer has spread outside the prostate gland and hormone therapy is not working, chemotherapy is a common form of treatment. These drugs will stop the spread of cancer cells and reduce symptoms but are unlikely to cure your condition. If your cancer is not responding to hormone therapy but causing few symptoms, you may also be a candidate for a cancer vaccine that is custom made out of your white blood cells. Like chemotherapy, however, vaccines do not fully cure prostate cancer.
Diet and prostate cancer
Several studies have suggested that nutrition plays a role in the development of prostate cancer. This is likely because it is a hormonal cancer, and research has shown that your intake of fiber, fat, and other nutrients influences how your body metabolizes and processes hormones.
Some research indicates that a plant-based diet, rather than one with animal protein in it, can have therapeutic benefits for men with PCa. The Mediterranean Diet is also frequently recommended as a way to both prevent and defeat cancer. This diet is high in healthy fats, such as olive oil and fish, and includes a variety of plant-based protein.
Food containing phytochemicals may help prevent the growth of cancer cells. These foods, such as pomegranates and green tea, have been linked to lower levels of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, a protein produced by cells in the prostate gland that is elevated in men with prostate cancer.
Some studies have found that calcium from dairy may increase your risk or increase the growth of cancer cells once it has developed. Other research indicates that soy-based food, such as tofu, may help prevent the growth of cancer cells, while the lycopene found in tomatoes may help lower the risk of your cancer recurring.
More than a single food, however, researchers have found that it is important to focus on an overall dietary pattern.
After conducting a review of several studies examining the link between diet and prostate cancer, one group of researchers noted that the best advice is to eat a healthy diet full of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. But, they conclude, “Advocating functional foods or supplements explicitly for cancer control purposes is currently premature.” More research needs to be done to determine if specific nutrients can help you prevent or beat prostate cancer.
Weight management and cancer
Multiple studies show a link between high body mass index (BMI), which indicates that a person is overweight or obese, and poor outcomes for prostate cancer, including a lowered chance of survival. This may be because obesity can affect your body’s hormone production, which can stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Obesity is also associated with delayed recovery after surgery or other medical treatment.
Eating a healthy diet can help lower your BMI and increase your chances of overcoming prostate cancer. You can also work with your doctor to come up with a safe exercise plan to strengthen your body and manage your weight while you undergo treatment.
It is important to remember that any cancer case is unique. Before deciding on a form of treatment or making any lifestyle changes, consult with your healthcare team. They’ll help you come up with a plan that gives you the best possible chance of beating your prostate cancer.
February 24, 2017
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA