Knowledge is power, and when it comes to ovarian cancer and prostate cancer, many people don’t know much about these diseases until someone they love is diagnosed with them. Don’t let that be you––learn more about prostate and ovarian cancer in honor of National Prostate and Ovarian Cancer Awareness month this September.

Prostate cancer

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, over 29,000 men die of the prostate cancer every year. It is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men in the U.S., with one in seven males in the country being diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their life. The disease is often slow to grow, and can go unnoticed for years. There are also mixed opinions regarding when and how men should be screened for prostate cancer.

The Mayo Clinic noted that this disease can stay in the prostate and not require treatment. More aggressive types, however, must be addressed with radiation or hormone therapy, and potentially surgery to remove the prostate. Symptoms men may experience range from difficulty urinating, bone pain, erectile dysfunction, pelvic discomfort, weak urine stream and blood in the semen or urine. Upon seeing these signs, a man should discuss them with his physician. The doctor will likely perform a rectal exam and then recommend keeping an eye on the symptoms to see if they worsen.

It’s important to note that the risk of developing prostate cancer goes up with age. It’s also important to note that those who have a family history of prostate cancer, or who are black, are more likely to have the disease and should consult their doctor if a screening should be conducted sooner.

Ovarian cancer

According to the Mayo Clinic, ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries and can go undetected as it spreads to the pelvis and abdomen. The early stages of the disease are easier to treat through either surgical removal of the affected areas, chemotherapy to kill off cancerous cells that linger or a combination of the two.

In its early stages, ovarian cancer has no symptoms. As it progresses, a woman who has the disease may have nonspecific, hard-to-diagnose symptoms like constipation, diarrhea or bloating. Some women are even diagnosed with irritable bowel disease due to the lack of concrete symptom origin. Weight loss, frequent urge to urinate, pelvic discomfort, fullness and swelling in the abdominal area can all be signs of late-stage ovarian cancer.

Seniors who have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer should speak with their doctors about the chance of developing ovarian cancer and ask whether a screening should be conducted sooner. This disease occurs most often in women who are between age 50 and 60, but may affect ages older or younger. Having BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes can lead to an increased risk in having ovarian cancer due to hormonal imbalances. Regular well-woman exams with a gynecologist include checking for ovarian cancer via palpating the abdomen and checking the genital area.

Discussing the many risk factors, symptoms and treatments of these diseases helps raise awareness with people of all ages. While seniors may be at a higher risk of having ovarian or prostate cancer, younger people can also benefit from knowing a bit about the diseases in the hopes that they can catch the cancer at an early stage in themselves if necessary.

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