Throughout their lifetime, some men may experience issues directly related to the prostate gland, necessitating a visit to their local urologist or primary care physician. What is the function of the prostate and what are the symptoms that men should be aware of to maintain proper health?
In essence, the prostate is an accessory sex gland. It is a walnut size organ that sits below the urinary bladder, in front of the rectum and surrounds the urethra. Its prime function is to supply the majority of the fluid for the male ejaculation and aid in the transportation of spermatozoa. There are 3 very common maladies that all men, and their loved ones, should be aware.
Prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate gland, is more often diagnosed in the younger male population. It is often categorized as chronic or acute, bacterial or non-bacterial. There are a myriad of symptoms that men may experience: uncontrolled or continuous urge to urinate, pelvic or rectal discomfort, burning while urination, pain in the lower abdomen, groin or scrotum, fever, blood in the ejaculation (hematospermia) and difficulty urinating to name a few. It can often times be brought on by excessive amounts of caffeine, stress and over the counter decongestants. It is not thought to be sexually transmitted and treatment is aimed at reducing the offending agents, antibiotics when indicated, anti-inflammatory agents such as ibuprofen and warm tub baths.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or enlargement of the prostate is probably the most common entity that will afflict many men. For the most part, BPH is a function of aging and will occur in most men, although the rate is variable. The most common symptoms that men will experience are difficulty or straining to urinate, reduction in the force of their urinary stream, the feeling of incomplete emptying of their bladder, getting up at night to go to the bathroom, blood in the urine, incontinence of urine and, in severe cases, a complete inability to urinate, requiring a trip to the emergency room. In past years, treatment was always surgical. Over the past 3 decades, however, medical therapy is the recommended first line of choice. There are 2 basic classes of drugs that may be beneficial, one that relaxes the prostate and the other that will physically shrink the prostate. Approximately 70% of men will initially respond to institution of medical therapy. However, some may still require surgical intervention and many advances have been made in that area and often times can be performed as an outpatient.
Prostate cancer is the most common solid tumor in men over the age of 50. There will be approximately 240,000 new cases diagnosed this year. It is also the second leading cause of cancer specific death behind carcinoma of the lung. Men who are at an increased two-fold risk of developing prostate cancer are those with a family history on their father’s side and African American men. Unfortunately, most men with prostate cancer DO NOT HAVE SYMPTOMS. Early detection of the disease can be easily accomplished with a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a simple blood test, prostate specific antigen (PSA). Despite the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation in 2012 not to have PSA’s checked routinely, it has been proven that judicious use of the test, especially those at higher risk, does result in an increased survival for men with prostate cancer caught early. As a specialty, the urology community recommends discussing the benefits of annual PSA testing and DRE with your physician starting at age 50 and possibly earlier in those men with an increased risk profile. Fortunately, early diagnosed prostate cancer is very treatable and, in select cases, active surveillance may be all that is required.
If you have any questions regarding your prostate, you can contact Advanced Urology Institute at (855) 298-2273.