Prostate cancer is an old man’s thing. So as we get older, more and more men will develop prostate cancer before they die.
Normally a prostate is not much bigger than a walnut. The most spectacular prostate that Professor Steven Joniau (UZ Leuven) ever dealt with weighed 1.5 kilograms. “Without a prostate, a man would not be able to have children. The testes produce the sperm, the prostate produces the transport and food for those sperm cells. 90 to 95 percent of the ejaculate is prostate fluid,” he tells Het Nieuwsblad.
“Your prostate grows throughout your life. And from the age of 50, that growth becomes noticeable. Because the prostate is around the urethra, that growth will cause pressure at a certain point. That is why older men often have difficulty urinating.”
“The main thing is benign prostate enlargement. It is completely normal for your prostate to enlarge with age. It leads to the ‘old man’ condition. They no longer pee, but drip. By the time they’re done, there are three others waiting for their turn. Then there is also acute prostatitis. The urethra is connected to the outside world and is not sterile. So a bacterium can end up in it and cause inflammation. It is extremely painful, it gives you a fever of 40 degrees.”
PSA is an important barometer for prostate cancer. The prostate glands that secrete PSA leak a very small amount into the blood. An elevated PSA value can indicate problems with the prostate. The older you are, the larger your prostate and therefore the more tissue that produces PSA. But if there is cancer, you are left with cells that grow randomly. They do not respect the barriers and dump large amounts of PSA into the blood. In the past, a high PSA value from the age of 50 was an immediate alarm signal. Today we know better.”
Many operations are unnecessary now that treatments have improved. A cancer can be treated so that it does not become life-threatening.
The opportunity for white men is high
“The statistical rule for white men is simple: divide your age by two and that is the percentage that have prostate cancer. I’m 52 years old, so if I die tomorrow and an autopsy is performed, there is a 26 percent risk of cancer being found in my prostate. If we live to be an average of 100 years old, half of white men will die with prostate cancer.”
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