First thing you need to know is that the prostate is an integral part of your health! Prostate health is something that every man should be aware of and it’s as easy as talking to your Naturopathic or Medical doctor. A little interesting fact is men aren’t the only ones with a prostate gland – woman have what’s called the Skene’s gland and this is the female analogue of the male prostate, but ours gets a little more attention than a woman’s! The average age for your first prostate exam usually ranges from 40 (those at high risk) to age 50 (those at average risk). So why the importance of prevention? Generally prostate cancer is a slow growing cancer, but it can grow quickly so we want to make sure that we catch it early and treat it as quickly as possible. About 1 in 7 men will get prostate cancer and it is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death in men next to lung cancer.
So you want to know more?
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that sits between the bladder and the penis and is an integral part of the male reproductive system. The urethra runs through the center of the prostate and functions to let urine flow out of the bladder and out of the body through the penis. The prostate is involved in sexual function and will secrete fluid that nourishes and protects the sperm during sexual activity.
Highlight 1: A healthy prostate means a healthy sex life
What can happen to my prostate?
Prostate health can be affected by three main pathological states:
- Prostatitis: Inflammation of the prostate that can be caused by an infection from bacteria or a virus.
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): The most common prostate pathology. This is an enlarged prostate gland that affects virtually all men over the age of 50. A little technical info for the curious minds out there. A hormone called DHT or dihydroxytestosterone is converted from testosterone with the help of an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase. DHT has been known to be the cause of prostatic hyperplasia (Remember this because treatment can focus on the activity of this enzyme)
- Prostate cancer: The 2nd most common cancer affecting men, but only 1 in 35 men with prostate cancer will die from it (Most will die with it not from it). This occurs when the cells in the prostate don’t grow and behave normally. Remember, most are slow growing and preventable.
Highlight 2: Staying on top of your prostate health = early detection of this preventable cancer
Ok, so how do I know when my body is telling me something might be wrong?
There are many signs and symptoms that may be good indications of your prostate health. Now to complicate the matters a little more, in the early stages of prostate cancer there may be no signs or symptoms. The following may occur in later stages of the disease:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Problems urinating à Slow or weak stream of urine, need to urinate more often, especially at night
- Hematuria (Blood in the urine – associated more with BPH)
- Neurological signs: Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet
- Lower back pain
Highlight 3: If you have any of the above symptoms contact your health care professional
What kind of tests do doctors do for the prostate?
There are a few ways in which your doctor can assess your prostate health and make sure you continue to be the well-tuned healthy man you are meant to be – prevention is key when it comes to the prostate.
- The digital rectal exam (DRE): Ok gentlemen, I know that this one could make some of you squeamish, but it can be a really reliable quick screening exam when done by a skilled practitioner. In a nutshell, the practitioner will palpate (ie. Locate and press on) your prostate. The prostate is accessed through the anus and is a short distance into the rectum. Using a single digit, the physician is assessing the quality and texture of the gland – notably how hard and large it may be.
- PSA (Prostate specific antigen): This is a very common term to be familiar with when talking about prostate health and tests involved. It is a protein that can be measured in your blood serum. It is a highly sensitive test, meaning that it can be detected easily, but it is not a specific test - meaning that it is associated with more than prostate cancer. Some PSA numbers that you should be away of - PSA > 5 should be monitored closely and PSA > 10 requires immediate attention and referral to a specialized.
Highlight 4: Ask your doctor about getting your prostate checked – it’s that easy
So if there is something wrong, what do I do?
Treatment for prostate health, most specific to prostate cancer, can range from a variety of conventional treatments to natural remedies and preventative approaches. Treatment will not be discussed in this article but if you would like to learn more about treatments for prostate health I will be posting an article shortly.
With your new found knowledge about the prostate and prostate health you are now more educated on some of the basics. This little, walnut-sized gland can have a huge impact on your health and is a vital part of the male reproductive system and sexual health. Prostate cancer screening is quick and easy, all it takes is a visit with your health care professional and its up to you to start this discussion.
Yours in health,