Changing a Man’s Diet After a Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

Changing a Man’s Diet After a Prostate Cancer Diagnosis
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Might appeals to masculinity and manhood help men with prostate cancer change their diet to improve their survival?

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A cancer diagnosis is seen as a teachable moment where we can try to get people to eat healthier, but research suggests that male cancer patients in particular may be reluctant to introduce dietary modification. This has been attributed to dietary modifications often being viewed as mimicking “feminine” eating behaviors, such as emphasizing an increase in fruit and vegetables. 

Although healthy eating might enhance long-term survival, few men with prostate cancer make diet changes to advance their well-being. Many of the cancer survival trials require adherence to strict, plant-based diets, and though researchers tried providing extensive nutrition education and counseling programs, dietary adherence was still a challenge.

The only way Dean Ornish was apparently able to reverse the progression of prostate cancer with a plant-based diet was home delivering prepared meals to their door, figuring men are so lazy they’ll just eat whatever’s put in front of them.  After all, male culture tends to encourage men to eat convenience food and meat, and drink beer.

Take Men’s Health magazine, for example. Included in the list of things men should never apologize for: liking McDonald’s, not offering a vegetarian alternative, and laughing at people who eat trail mix.

It features articles with titles like, “Vegetables Are for Girls,” and sections like “Men and Meat: There’s Only One Kind of Flesh We Like Better, and Even Then, She’d Better Know How to Grill!”

To appeal to male sensibilities, doctors are advised to use ‘body as machine’ metaphors, framing men’s health in terms of mechanical objects, such as cars, requiring tuning. But if men are so concerned about their masculinity and manhood, maybe we should instead share a bit about what prostate cancer treatment entails. The prostate is situated at the base of the penis, and so when you core it out with a radical prostatectomy, you lose about an inch off your penis, if it gets erect at all. Only 16% of men undergoing the procedure will regain their pre-surgery level of erectile functioning.

Patients are typically quoted erectile dysfunction rates around 60% or 70%, but studies have generally considered erectile function recovery as just the ability to maintain an erection hard enough for penetration about 50% of the time; so, getting it up occasionally is considered recovery, but when a surgeon tells patients they will recover function, the patients probably assume that means the kind of function they had prior to surgery  And that only happens 16% of the time,  and only 4% of the time in men over 60. Only 1 in 25 gets their baseline sexual function back.

And it’s not just erections, but other problems like orgasm-associated pain even years later and urinary incontinence during foreplay, stimulation, or orgasm. The vast majority of couples overestimate how much function they’re going to recover. Couples reported feeling loss and grief. Having cancer is bad enough without the additional losses. You’d think that would be enough to motivate men to improve their diets, but almost a fourth of the men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer state they would prefer to have their lives cut short rather than living with a diet that prohibits beef and pork. More men would rather be impotent than improve their diet. It appears pleasures of the flesh may sometimes trump… pleasures of the flesh.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to TaniaVdB via Pixabay

A cancer diagnosis is seen as a teachable moment where we can try to get people to eat healthier, but research suggests that male cancer patients in particular may be reluctant to introduce dietary modification. This has been attributed to dietary modifications often being viewed as mimicking “feminine” eating behaviors, such as emphasizing an increase in fruit and vegetables. 

Although healthy eating might enhance long-term survival, few men with prostate cancer make diet changes to advance their well-being. Many of the cancer survival trials require adherence to strict, plant-based diets, and though researchers tried providing extensive nutrition education and counseling programs, dietary adherence was still a challenge.

The only way Dean Ornish was apparently able to reverse the progression of prostate cancer with a plant-based diet was home delivering prepared meals to their door, figuring men are so lazy they’ll just eat whatever’s put in front of them.  After all, male culture tends to encourage men to eat convenience food and meat, and drink beer.

Take Men’s Health magazine, for example. Included in the list of things men should never apologize for: liking McDonald’s, not offering a vegetarian alternative, and laughing at people who eat trail mix.

It features articles with titles like, “Vegetables Are for Girls,” and sections like “Men and Meat: There’s Only One Kind of Flesh We Like Better, and Even Then, She’d Better Know How to Grill!”

To appeal to male sensibilities, doctors are advised to use ‘body as machine’ metaphors, framing men’s health in terms of mechanical objects, such as cars, requiring tuning. But if men are so concerned about their masculinity and manhood, maybe we should instead share a bit about what prostate cancer treatment entails. The prostate is situated at the base of the penis, and so when you core it out with a radical prostatectomy, you lose about an inch off your penis, if it gets erect at all. Only 16% of men undergoing the procedure will regain their pre-surgery level of erectile functioning.

Patients are typically quoted erectile dysfunction rates around 60% or 70%, but studies have generally considered erectile function recovery as just the ability to maintain an erection hard enough for penetration about 50% of the time; so, getting it up occasionally is considered recovery, but when a surgeon tells patients they will recover function, the patients probably assume that means the kind of function they had prior to surgery  And that only happens 16% of the time,  and only 4% of the time in men over 60. Only 1 in 25 gets their baseline sexual function back.

And it’s not just erections, but other problems like orgasm-associated pain even years later and urinary incontinence during foreplay, stimulation, or orgasm. The vast majority of couples overestimate how much function they’re going to recover. Couples reported feeling loss and grief. Having cancer is bad enough without the additional losses. You’d think that would be enough to motivate men to improve their diets, but almost a fourth of the men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer state they would prefer to have their lives cut short rather than living with a diet that prohibits beef and pork. More men would rather be impotent than improve their diet. It appears pleasures of the flesh may sometimes trump… pleasures of the flesh.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to TaniaVdB via Pixabay

Doctor's Note

Did I say reverse the progression of cancer? See Cancer Reversal Through Diet.

More on prostate cancer prevention and survival in Prostate Cancer Survival: The A/V Ratio and Prostate Cancer and Organic Milk vs. Almond Milk.

Update: In 2017, I released two important videos on prostate cancer. Treating Advanced Prostate Cancer with Diet Part 1 and Part 2

More on maintaining male sexual function in:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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