Men Against Malignancy (all about the top 3 cancers in males)

The Human Body -- Cancer

The Human Body — Cancer (Photo credit: n0cturbulous)

Cancer is a killer. Painful, debilitating, and expensive, we all fear it as one of the worst ways you could possibly go. Chances are that you’ve had at least one friend or family member who has succumbed to this dreaded disease.

Cancer refers to the growth of abnormal cells. These invading cancer cells can eventually mess with and damage your normal cells. If the cancer spreads throughout your body, enough damage can occur to cause vital organs to shut down.

Cancer starts with mutations in the DNA of your cells. DNA works like a set of instructions that each cell follows as it grows and divides, and mutations are like typo errors. Normal cells can repair most mutations or eventually die off before dividing. But some mutations can persist and get passed on, producing cancer cells. These cancer cells can live longer and divide faster than normal, sometimes developing into tumors or malignancies.

A - normal cell division, B - cancer cell divi...

A – normal cell division, B – cancer cell division; 1 – apoptosis; 2 – damaged cell. From the National Cancer Institute. http://press2.nci.nih.gov/sciencebehind/cancer/cancer01.htm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Genetics, age, lifestyle, and the environment all affect your risk for developing cancer and how it progresses if you do.

According to a study done for the Philippine Cancer Control Program, cancer ranks third after infections and heart disease as the leading causes of disease and death in the country. The three leading cancer sites among males are lung, liver and prostate cancer. But the top three mortality cancer sites, meaning those that directly cause death, are lung, liver and leukemia.

Although there are many different types of cancers, some symptoms are common among most patients. These include fatigue, weight loss, fever, skin changes, and pain. Anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible to diagnose and treat whatever the underlying disease might be.

Oncologist (cancer specialist) Dr. Esther Ganzon, Jr., recommends that anybody who suspects cancer should go straight to a specialist. “A general practitioner or family doctor may miss some signs and symptoms a cancer specialist is trained to spot,” she clarifies. “For your peace of mind, even if it’s just a suspicion it may be best to approach a specialist so that you can get a tailored examination to screen for cancer. Most people believe that seeing a specialist may be too expensive, but one visit doesn’t really cost too much and it may be worth it to be sure about your health.”

Lung Cancer

What You Need To Know

Steer clear

Smoking, inhaling secondhand smoke, and having asthma increases the risks of lung cancer.

Watch out

 A persistent cough, shortness of breath, and clubbed fingernails with rounded nail beds could all be signs of lung cancer.

Live Odds

 According to the Philippine Cancer Control Program study, the relative survival rate at five years for Filipino men is 7 percent.

Lung cancer

Lung cancer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What You Need To Do

 Quit smoking. Among male cigarette smokers, the risk of lung cancer is more than 2,000 percent higher than among male nonsmokers.

What You Need To Devour

Eating an apple a day may cut the risk of lung cancer by 40 percent, as determined by a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Take a daily multivitamin supplement containing Vitamin B6 and take an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen or aspirin once a day. A study published in the journal Cancer found that men who take either medication at least three times a week reduce their lung-cancer risk.

Have a glass of red wine a day. Research by the National Cancer Institute indicates that red wine drinkers were 13 percent less likely to develop lung cancer.

Have a grapefruit or a glass of grapefruit juice a day. It contains naringin, a bioflavonoid antioxidant that may offer protection against some forms of lung cancer, according to a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Drink at least two cups of decaf coffee daily. Researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, in Buffalo,New York, found that those who consumed at least two cups of decaf daily were 36 percent less likely to develop lung cancer than those who drank caffeinated black tea or coffee. Coffee beans are rich in cancer-fighting flavonoids but caffeine has been shown to reduce flavonoids’ beneficial effects.

Sesame oil or walnuts contain gamma tocopherol, a form of Vitamin E that Purdue University researchers have discovered helps kill prostate and lung cancer cells without hurting healthy cells.

Dra. Ganzon explain that generally, antioxidants have been shown to demonstrate anti-cancer properties. “Like other heavily promoted health supplements such as virgin coconut oil for example, these products still do not have any approved therapeutic claims. More long-term scientific studies are still necessary for them to be seriously considered for treating cancer. But if patients like to try alternative therapies, I would not discourage them but I would strongly advise them not to stop standard treatment.

Words from the Warzone

A member of the Filipino publishing community used to be a heavy chain smoker. His smoking habit started in adolescence, and he was eventually smoking 1-2 packs a day. Then finding out he had lung cancer forced him to quit.

As his cancer progressed, his weight dropped. He began to share with friends and coworkers his regret at not kicking the habit sooner. By then he had accepted the fact that it was too late to reverse the damage he had done to his lungs.

 In order to help spread the word against smoking, he started posting pictures of his disease-ravaged body, skin and bones, haggard and hollow-cheeked. The photo comes with a caption: “I have lung cancer. Don’t be like me. Don’t smoke.”

Prostate Cancer

Sidebar: 

Finger It Out. A Pitch for Palpating the Prostate

Dra. Eliza Raymundo is a Urologist, a doctor who specializes in plumbing the male pride and joy, the source of both our strength and shame, that which many Filipina ladies still dare not name, let alone thoroughly scrutinize, inside and out. More than 80% of her patients are male, and 40% of them present with a problem related to the prostate. In these cases, it’s necessary to do a Digital Rectal Exam. And by digital, we don’t mean computers, but the latin root word “digitus” meaning “finger”. Putting together “finger” plus “rectal exam” and you can easily do the math regarding the depths of Dra. Raymundo’s dedication to her profession.

Dra. Raymundo discloses that she has never encountered a reluctance to be examined by her among her male patients aged 50 and above. Not too surprisingly, it’s the younger ones who are more hesitant. She explains that one just has to be upfront and professional about it in order to gain their confidence.

The thing about urogenital symptoms and diseases is that they are all very much related to each other. Patients with fertility or urination problems eventually manifest with sexual dysfunction and vice versa, whereas younger patients who first consult for benign symptoms may eventually be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their old age. Dra. Raymundo also reports an increasing incidence of cancer of the bladder among her patients in their 30s and early 40s.

“Some men prefer to consult with a female doctor,” states Dra. Raymundo, probably because they appreciate the different point of view a woman can provide. But some have admitted to the preference because they think that, as Dra. Raymundo reveals, “being examined by a woman is less ‘gay’. With a guy you never know for sure”.

Discussing the treatment of prostate cancer, Dra. Raymundo explains the necessity of embracing both a surgical and medical approach. Patients can opt for traditional open surgery, which is the most invasive. Or they can take advantage of the emerging trend of minimally invasive endoscopic or laparoscopic surgery, which is done utilizing fiber optic cables, miniature video cameras and special surgical instruments handled via tubes inserted into the body through small openings in its surface. However, since these techniques are technology intensive, they are not as widely available here in the Philippines.

Dra. Raymundo wants to underline the importance of raising awareness in the fight against a disease. As an example, she recounts how during the time period of the previous election, when the news about presidential candidate Raul Roco being afflicted with and eventually dying of prostate cancer thrust the disease into the media spotlight, the number of consultations and patients asking to be examined shot up more than three times. But when the news died down, the number of consults began to decline. This case in point stresses how critical a role education plays in detecting and surviving cancer. This is true for men of all ages, lifestyles, and from all walks of life. For a healthy, happy prostate, the UP-Philippine General Hospital advises a low fat, high-fiber diet, and having a yearly prostate examination starting at the age of 45 for men with a father or brother who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and starting at the age of 50 for other men.

What You Need To Know 

Steer Clear

 All men are at risk. The most significant risk factor is age. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 70 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are over the age of 65. There is some evidence that a diet high in fat, particularly animal fat, is also a factor. Genetics also appear to play a role, particularly for families in whom the diagnosis is made in men below 60 years of age. The risk rises with the number of close relatives with the cancer.

 Watch Out

 Prostate cancer can go on undetected for many years. By the time symptoms occur, the cancer may have already spread. Possible symptoms include problems with urinating and ejaculating, and pain in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs

Live Odds

According to the Philippine Cancer Control Program study, the relative survival rate at five years for Filipino men is 21.2 percent

What You Need To Do

Exercise: Men with prostate cancer can cut their risk of dying by 70 percent by vigorously exercising for at least three hours a week, according to Harvard University researchers. They believe physical activity affects hormones that would otherwise enhance the cancer’s growth.

Masturbate: Men in their 40s who ejaculate at least five times a week are 32 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer.

Quit smoking: A recent study shows that smokers were three times more likely to have cancer that spread outside the prostate by the time of surgery, compared to nonsmokers.

Dr. Ganzon recommends for all men in general to keep their cancer risks low by living healthily, eating right, and exercising regularly. “However, those with proven genetic predisposition to any particular cancer should be more prudent with regard to undergoing screening tests, following-up with their doctor, and consulting with a specialist.”

What You Need to Devour

Eat watermelon: it’s loaded with lycopene, a phytochemical that may protect your heart, prostate, and skin. Harvard investigators found that the nutrient can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by up to 35 percent.

Spice up your dinner: Rutgers University scientists found that a combination of the spice turmeric (found in curry powder) and phenethyl isothiocyanate (a compound abundant in broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower) is highly effective in fighting off the disease in mice and could offer similar benefits to humans.

Eat fish: A recently completed 12-year Harvard study determined that those who eat fish more than three times a week are 40 percent less likely to develop advanced prostate cancer than those who hit the surf only twice a month. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and vitamin D, which may help prevent prostate cancer. Salmon, mackerel, and herring have the best balance of these cancer fighters.

Whey protein: In a recent Ohio State University study researchers treated human prostate cells with whey protein and then measured the cells’ levels of a natural cancer-blocking compound called glutathione. The finding: Glutathione levels rose by a remarkable 64 percent. Whey is a rich source of the amino acid cysteine which the body can convert to glutathione. One of the best sources of whey is yogurt; a lot of the protein is in the clear liquid on top, so don’t pour it off.

Words from the Warzone

Peter, 55, a house painter, relates how he had been experiencing sporadic urinary-related symptoms over the past few years but this would usually be attributed to a urinary tract infection. It was only when he had a digital rectal examination this year when it was discovered that he had Stage 2 prostate cancer. Fortunately, his case had a good prognosis and his doctors, including Dra. Raymundo, have been able to successfully manage it so far.

 “The cancer did not affect my being able to work and function within society much,” says Peter. “But I still have difficulty controlling my urination, and I worry about ever being able to regain that.”

 Peter deals with his cancer with a certain amount of resignation and matter-of-factness now. “The many regular tests and consultations are very tiring and time-consuming but I do them all,” he says. “I am also now much more mindful of my health and diet compared to how I used to be before the cancer.” At present, he also demonstrates a deep hunger for information about the disease and anything that may be relevant to his case, a not uncommon trait shared among cancer patients of any type.

Liver Cancer

What You Need To Know

Steer Clear

Men are twice as likely as women to get liver cancer. People who have family members with liver cancer may be more likely to get the disease.

The most important risk factor for liver cancer is chronic infection with the hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus. These viruses are transmittable through blood sharing or sexual contact. Liver cancer can develop after many years of infection with the virus.

Think before you ink: University of Texas Southwestern researchers found that patronizing a tattoo parlor makes you nine times more likely to contract hepatitis C.

Alcohol abuse, certain drugs, chemicals, viruses or parasites can cause cirrhosis of the liver, wherein the liver cells are damaged and replaced with scar tissue. About 5 percent of people with cirrhosis develop liver cancer.

Overeating leads to an increase in insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I), a hormone that encourages tumor growth. According to British researches on the journal Cancer, increasing body-mass index is directly proportional to the likelihood of dying of cancers of the gut—specifically, rectal, bladder, colon, or liver cancer. Taking in less sugar and refined starches such as white bread, white rice, and pasta is the best way to control IGF-I levels, and lower your BMI as well.

Cooking meat over high heat until it chars produces heterocyclic amines (HCA), a carcinogen that elevates the risk of liver, colon, and stomach cancers. So avoid eating any protein that’s been charred, including meat and fish.

Liver cancer can be caused by aflatoxin, a harmful substance made by certain types of mold that can grow on peanuts, corn, and other nuts and grains.

Watch Out

 Liver cancer is sometimes called a “silent disease” because at early stages it often doesn’t present any symptoms. But as the cancer grows, symptoms may include abdominal pain, extending to the back and shoulder, swollen or bloated abdomen, loss of appetite and feeling full easily, nausea and vomiting, yellowing of the skin and eyes, and dark urine from jaundice.

Live Odds

According to the Philippine Cancer Control Program study, the relative survival rate at five years for Filipino men is 12.9 percent.

 What You Need To Do

At this time, liver cancer can be cured only when it is found at an early stage (before it has spread), and only if the patient is healthy enough to have an operation. However, treatments other than surgery may be able to control the disease and help patients live longer and feel better.

Among people who are not already infected with the hepatitis B virus, vaccination can prevent chronic infection and protect against liver cancer. Researchers are now working to develop a vaccine to prevent hepatitis C infection.

Cut back on booze. Those who consume more than 14 drinks a week or regularly have more than five drinks at a time are at risk for cirrhosis

Limit your paracetamol. Every time you pop paracetamol, a harmful by-product is released. Your body can handle small amounts, but large quantities start destroying liver cells. It’s recommended that men take no more than two grams per day.

What You Need To Devour

Drink coffee. Coffee contains large amounts of antioxidants that inhibit carcinogens in the liver and also protect your liver from alcohol-related damage. Medium-roasted coffee has higher antioxidant activity than dark-roasted varieties.

Balance your liver with glutathione (GSH): GSH detoxifies drugs like paracetamol (which is why alcoholics should never pop one while drinking—the by-product is toxic), and is also essential for liver regeneration, as established in a study by the University of Southern California. Popping SAM-e, a supplement that converts to glutathione in the liver, can bring your GSH levels back to normal. In Europe, where SAM-e is actually prescribed for liver disease, the standard dosage is 1.2 grams, or about three tablets, per day. Drinking men should also be taking folic acid and a B-vitamin complex, because they’re essential in the formation of SAM-e and glutathione

Eat shallots: Onion’s bulbous brothers, shallots, are the real edible lifesavers. According to recent research from Cornell University, extracts from shallots were determined to be among the most effective at quashing colon- and liver-cancer cells, thanks to their rich hoard of anti-cancer-growth phytochemicals.

Down a protein shake: According to a study review published in Nutrition, the damaged livers of rats that were given a protein supplement regenerated faster than those of rats not given anything. This could also apply to humans. Look for powders that get their protein from whey (not soy) and that list the essential amino acid glutamine as one of the ingredients.

Words from the Warzone

Arthur was 52 when he found out he had metastatic liver cancer two years ago. “The cancer diagnosis was frightening, plain and simple,” he confesses. “I am single and I knew it was going to be tough to get through the treatment, so I immediately started to line up friends to come and be with me, as much as possible.”

He found that hot flashes and night sweats were two of the more memorable symptoms of cancer treatment, plus the horror of taking narcotic pain pills and the constipation that they caused.

Arthur shares that he is now much more conscious of his habits and staying healthy than ever before. “Since the treatment affected my immune system, it seems like every infection I get could turn into something major and become life-threatening,” he explains.

“Cancer is unpredictable even if you achieve cure after treatment,” shares Dr. Ganzon. “Cancers caught at an early stage are generally curable, and aggressive treatment can pay off. But in later stages, the patient’s quality of life becomes more important than pushing for a cure. Nevertheless, unlike before, it is no longer true now that cancer means your life is over.”

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. unless otherwise indicated, facts and figures provided by Men’s Health research archives. first published in Men’s Health Philippines, 2006

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