After you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s very important to make the necessary lifestyle changes that will improve the quality of your life.
According to Dr. Thomas Farrington, prostate cancer survivor and president and founder of the Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN), here are some of the top things a man with prostate cancer needs to stay healthy.
“Knowledge is the best tool to help you survive,” Dr. Farrington says. “Black men need to ask ‘should I be treated or go into active surveillance?’ ‘What is my stage of cancer?’ ‘Surgery or radiation?’ Men don’t understand that you must continue to be diligent in post-prostate cancer treatment.”
There are many resources available to learn about prostate cancer facts and treatments, such as PHEN and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.
Dr. Farrington also stressed an underlying reason for men to educate themselves about recommended lifestyle habits and possible treatments, in addition to maintaining a higher quality of post-cancer life – prostate cancer recurrence.
“Just because you’ve received treatment doesn’t mean the cancer can’t come back, so men to know about available treatments, particularly new treatments that are on the horizon. An example of this is an exiting new treatment that addresses prostate cancer recurrences called Provenge, which uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Many insurance companies cover this, and it’s important for men to be aware of this new option.”
2. The Right Diet
It can be very difficult to adhere to a balanced cancer diet, particularly during treatment, while your body is working overtime to fight the cancer and repair healthy cells that may have been damaged as a side effect of treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. At the same time, many cancer treatments, such as radiation, can leave you weak and without an appetite – this makes it both challenging, yet crucial, to get in those essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals your body needs in order to fight and regain strength.
“You really do need to be concerned with your diet,” says Dr. Farrington. “One key aspect of a prostate cancer diet is being lower in fat.”
Experts also recommend reducing animal fat in your diet. Studies show that excess fat, primarily red meat and high-fat dairy, stimulates prostate cancer growth. In addition, avoid trans fatty acids (found in margarines, fried and baked goods) and high-calcium diets, which are also both known to promote cancer growth.
Foods known to help aid in maintaining prostate health include:
Fresh fish. Why? It tends to be high in very beneficial alpha omega-3 fatty acids. Ideally, eat cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and trout, at least two to three times a week. The fish should be poached, baked, or grilled (not burned or charred). You should avoid fried fish.
Fresh fruits and vegetables. Powerful anticancer nutrients are being discovered regularly in colorful fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, berries and seeds. Ideal options include red grapes, leafy dark-green vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and tomotoes/tomato products, which are very high in lycopene, a powerful anticancer substance. This includes pizza sauce and tomato paste.
Natural Vitamin C. Great choices include citrus fruits, berries, spinach, cantaloupe, sweet peppers and mango.
Green tea. Drink green tea several times each week.
Olive oil and avocado oil. Both are very healthy and rich in antioxidants.
Vitamin E. Aim for 50 to 100 IU of gamma and d-alpha. However, be sure to consult with your doctor first, since some recent studies have raised concerns over serious risks with vitamin E intake. Natural sources include nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado oil, wheat germ, peas and nonfat milk.
Selenium. This is a very powerful antioxidant and the backbone molecule of your body’s immune system. Most studies support a daily selenium supplement of 200 micrograms a day. Natural sources include Brazil nuts, fresh fish, grains, mushrooms, wheat germ, bran, whole-wheat bread, oats and brown rice.
Multivitamins. Take a multivitamin with B complex and folic acid daily.
In addition to high-fat, high-calcium and trans fat-containing foods, it’s also important to avoid excess preserved, pickled, or salted foods, flax seed oil, high-dose zinc supplements, and oils high in polyunsaturated fats, such as corn, canola or soybean oil.
3. The Right Lifestyle
In addition to eating the right foods, other healthy post-cancer habits include:
- Limiting your calorie intake. Excess calories are bad for cancer growth.
- Getting sunshine daily.
- Seeing your doctor regularly, and ensuring that you continue to get prostate cancer screenings at a frequency recommended by your doctor.
- Remembering that for most things, moderation is the key.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that heart healthy is prostate healthy. Heart disease is still the No. 1 killer, even in men with prostate cancer.
4. The Right Support
When it comes to life after cancer, men need a strong circle of support: this can include his doctor, his family, his friends and/or support groups.
“I’ve seen men close down, and say, ‘This is it,’” says Dr. Farrington. “Cancer is a family disease. I like to talk to the women in the family, the people who tend to be the primary caregivers, and tell them they need to get engaged with helping their men. Men should also consider listening to other survivors tell their stories.”
Dr. Farrington has some parting thoughts for black men: “One of the main problems regarding prostate cancer is that black men tend to be diagnosed at later stages, when the cancer has already spread, meaning there are far fewer treatment options. I advise Black men to ignore the U.S. Preventive Task Force and start getting screened by age 40. Let your doctor know you’re at high risk for prostate cancer, and if the doctor doesn’t want to do it, find another doctor. Also, lots of people don’t have access to proper treatment. If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and you can’t afford treatment, educate yourself about programs that can help save your life.”