Each year, over 700,000 men are diagnosed with cancer and nearly 300,000 die from the disease. During the course of a lifetime half of all men will get cancer at least once, and 1 in 3 women will get the disease. Cancer can strike anyone, at any age, but the majority of cases happen to people 55 and over.
The saddest part about all of this is that most of these cancers and deaths are preventable. At least one-third of cancer deaths are caused by smoking, and another one-third may be caused by poor diet and/or lack of exercise. The 2 keys to beating cancer are early detection and reducing risk.
The following are common types of cancers found in men. Browse through each type to find out information such as symptoms, treatment options and prevention tips for each condition/disease.
GASTRIC CANCER (STOMACH CANCER)
Prostate cancer is the leading cancer for men in the US. It is followed by lung cancer and then colorectal cancer. The fourth most common cancer is race-dependent: bladder cancer for Caucasian men, cancer of the mouth and throat for African American men, kidney/renal cancer for American Indian/ Alaska Native males and Hispanic males and stomach cancer for Asian/Pacific Island men.
If any of the following are true, you are at risk of developing cancer. It is important that you start having conversations with your healthcare provider about your risk.
- You smoke (cigarettes, pipes, or cigars) or chew tobacco
- You drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day
- You have a family history of cancer
- You have had cancer in the past
- You are 55 or older
- You get little or no exercise
- You eat a high-fat, low-fiber diet
- You are African-American
You can’t detect cancers if you don’t know what to look for. Below are a number of symptoms that could be indicators. Many of them could be caused by other conditions, but you should notify your healthcare provider if you notice anything unusual or abnormal.
- Lumps that you can feel through the skin
- Sores that don’t heal
- Changes in the size, color, or texture of a wart or mole
- Blood in the urine, stool, or saliva
- A cough, sore throat, hoarseness, or trouble swallowing that won’t go away
- Persistent back ache
- Unexpected weight loss
- Unexplained pain
- Pressure or tenderness in the chest
- Unusual bleeding
- Chronic nausea or gas
- Fever that lasts more than a few days
Even with early detection and knowledge of the risk factors, there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll never get cancer. But there are a number of steps you can take that will go a long way toward minimizing your chances:
- Don’t smoke. Smoking causes 90% of lung cancers and greatly increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, kidney, bladder, pancreas and esophagus.
- Limit alcohol to two drinks a day maximum.
- Limit your exposure to sunlight. A little bit of exposure will stimulate your body to produce vitamin D, which researchers think may reduce the risk of a number of cancers. But too much can cause skin cancer. Between 10 am and 3 pm—the hottest part of the day—try to stay indoors as much as possible. When you do go out, always wear sunscreen with SPF (sunscreen protection factor) 25 or greater. If you don’t have sunscreen, wear a hat or stay in the shade as much as possible. Having fair skin or having had severe sunburn in childhood greatly increases the risk of developing skin cancer.
- Eat a low-fat, high fiber diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. High-fat, low-fiber diets are at least partly responsible for most colorectal cancers. They also increase the risk of pancreatic and bladder cancers.
- Limit foods that are smoked, salted, pickled, or high in nitrates (such as hot dogs and luncheon meats). These foods are associated with increased risk of stomach cancer.
- Limit your exposure to PVCs (poly vinyl chloride), tar and creosote (a dark brown or black flammable tar deposited from wood smoke on chimney walls). These are linked with a number of cancers, including cancer of the liver and skin.
- Spend some time getting to know yourself and your body. See your healthcare provider if you notice any significant changes.
- Get screened as recommended. These tests are designed to detect certain types of cancer (such as colon, bladder, kidney, testicles, prostate) in their earliest stages. Caught early, these cancers can be treated successfully.
- Take aspirin. Some recent research indicates that people who took aspirin 16+ times a month were 40% less likely to get cancer of the esophagus, stomach, rectum, or colon than those who didn’t take aspirin at all.
CANCER’S AFFECT ON SEXUAL HEALTH
Sex is an important part of life. Cancer and its various treatments can have an impact on your sexual health, whether you are a man or a woman. These changes can affect people physically and emotionally, decreasing interest in sexual activity as well as self-confidence. Yet patients and healthcare providers often don’t talk about how cancer treatment will affect a person’s sex life and mental health. Fears about erections can sometimes lead to problems. Instead of letting go and feeling excited, a man may be worried about how well he does and his fear of failure can make him fail. Erectile problems caused by anxiety and stress are more common in young healthy men.
Learn about the treatments you will be receiving and ask questions of your healthcare provider:
- When will it be OK to have sex?
- Are there any types of sex I should avoid?
- What safety measures do I need to take, and for how long?
- What birth control is best for me and how long should I use it?
- How might each treatment affect my sex life?
Remember that there is no right or wrong way to have sex. Sometimes couples feel cheated if both partners cannot reach orgasm through sex as they’ve always done. But during cancer treatment, there may be times when that kind of sex is not possible. Some couples believe that sex should happen on the spur of the moment, with no planning. But sometimes when you are dealing with a cancer-related symptom or treatment side effect, it is impossible for it to happen like it did in the past. It is important to have open and honest conversations with your partner throughout this time to make sure your feelings are expressed. If one person has a sex problem, it affects both of you, so making your partner part of finding the solution will bring you closer together.
CANCER TREATMENTS AFFECT ON SEXUAL HEALTH
Surgery. Certain operations can cause more sexual problems than others. An example is when a man has had pelvic organs removed (i.e. bladder, prostate, rectum, etc) he may not regain full erectile function. Men who had successful erections prior to cancer surgery are far more likely to regain the success than men who previously had problems. Surgery may result in loss of arterial blood flow, potentially restricting blood flow to the penis or causing nerve damage.
Radiation. Radiation treatments that are directed to the lower abdomen cancers can cause erectile issues because of the damage to the vessels carrying blood to the penis. The potential of interior scar formation is likely as treated areas heal, and therefore blood vessel walls won’t be as elastic as before, preventing adequate blood rush creating a firm erection. Radiation may harm the nerves that control erection and some men may produce less testosterone post treatment. Testosterone levels may increase within 6 months after radiation, and we recommend speaking with your provider to see if further hormone therapy is beneficial. (Men with prostate cancer should not take testosterone, since it may make prostate cancer cells grow faster.)
Chemotherapy. Many men undergoing chemotherapy treatment see no change in erectile function. However, erections and desire may temporarily drop immediately following chemo treatments. In some cases, testosterone treatment may be prescribed to regain desire and erections.
Hormone Treatment. In the case of metastasized prostate cancer, treatment may include balancing a man’s hormone levels. Hormone treatment or hormone therapy starves the cancer cells of testosterone and this helps slow the cancer’s growth. Blocking testosterone can be done by:
- Using drugs to keep the man from making testosterone
- Using drugs that block the body from using testosterone
- Removing a man’s testicles (called orchiectomy)
Decrease desire for sexual activity is a common problem man undergoing hormone treatment experience. Hormone treatment may also cause physical changes in appearance, such as losing muscle mass, weight gain, or increase in breast tissue. Discuss your concerns about side effects with your healthcare provider, because there may be ways to prevent or limit some of these effects.
Many problems men have after cancer treatment don’t typically last long, and as a man begins to feel more in control of his body, there will be an increase in self-confidence and sexual desire improves. In other cases, some cancer treatments may cause a life-long change, and it’s difficult to know what will happen. Keeping open communication with your healthcare providers will help to jointly find the cause of issues and seek treatment to fix them!