As King Charles Undergoes Prostate Treatment, 5 Things Men Need to Know About Diagnosis and Prevention

King Charles III attends Sunday church service on January 7, 2024, in Sandringham, England. Charles is expected to undergo a corrective procedure for an enlarged prostate this week. Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

King Charles III may be royalty, but even kings need to stay on top of their prostate health. As the 75-year-old monarch undergoes a “corrective procedure” for an enlarged prostate this week, international media attention is shining a spotlight on the importance of prostate health – and getting tested for prostate cancer.

And people are taking notice. Buckingham Palace announced the king’s prostate procedure last Wednesday and, according to the Guardian, England’s National Health Service “received 11 times more visits on Wednesday than on the previous day” following the announcement. They also reported that the NHS stated that, “one person visited the site every five seconds, or 16,410 in total.”

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Canadian men, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. Indeed, one in eight Canadian men can expect to be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime and one in 30 will die from it. It’s most common in older men (over 50), those with African and Caribbean genetic ancestry and those with a family history of the disease.

So if you’re a man over 50 (royalty or not), talk to your doctor about this serious disease. Here are five things you should know about prostate health:

Prostate enlargement is normal – and it doesn’t mean you have cancer: In young men, the prostate – part of the male reproductive and urinary systems – is about the size of a walnut. It typically gets larger as you age (in some cases, as large as a tennis ball). In medical terms, a prostate enlargement is referred to as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and, like the name suggests, it’s not cancerous, nor does it raise your risk for cancer. While the cause of prostate enlargement remains a mystery, it’s often linked to aging. But since some of the symptoms of BPH mimic the symptoms of prostate cancer (like the sudden urge to urinate), it’s important to talk to your doctor about any notable symptoms.

Symptoms of prostate cancer can make it hard to diagnose: Some of the symptoms of prostate cancer include more frequent urination, incontinence, blood in the urine or semen, burning or pain during urination, pain or stiffness in the hips or pelvis, even erectile dysfunction. But one of the biggest challenges with diagnosing prostate cancer is that you might not have any symptoms in the early stages. Or, certain symptoms – like erectile dysfunction – mimic other health conditions. But two tests can help with early detection: the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE). Neither test is perfectly reliable but doctors will consider the results of each as well as your risk factors before moving forward with treatment.

The earlier it’s diagnosed, the better the chance of a full recovery: Prostate cancer begins as a malignant tumour in the prostate, but it can spread to other parts of the body, such as the bladder, lymph nodes or bones. Once the cancer has spread, it’s much harder to treat (which is why early diagnosis is so important). Depending on the type and stage of the prostate cancer, as well as your medical history, treatment could include surveillance, surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or hormone therapy.

Prostate cancer has a high survival rate: The good news is that the death rate from prostate cancer has been on a decline since 1994, thanks to improved treatment. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, “nearly 100% of people with prostate cancer will survive at least five years after their diagnosis if the cancer is caught early.” In later stages, the prognosis is much grimmer: only three in 10 people are expected to survive five years.

Your diet can help by reducing inflammation. That means eating more cruciferous veggies, like cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. Broccoli, in particular, has been hailed as a “prostate super food,” since it contains glucoraphanin, which “researchers suggest can convert to substances that potentially target and prevent cancer cell growth,” according to the California-based Prostate Cancer Foundation. It also recommends dark-meat fish like salmon (for “good” fats that don’t trigger inflammation), berries (for anthocyanins, a group of antioxidants) and cooked tomatoes (for lycopene, a powerful antioxidant). What not to eat? Avoid sugar and processed carbs, and eat animal protein in moderation.