The prostate is a male reproductive gland about the size of a walnut. It is located beneath the bladder, in front of the rectum, and above the urethra. The prostate produces a fluid that combines with spermatozoa to form semen, and it is the prostate’s job to squeeze fluid into the urethra during ejaculation.
As men age, the prostate enlarges, so it is common for men to have an enlarged prostate by the age of 70. When the prostate becomes enlarged it can sometimes press against the urethra and cause urinary problems. The three most common urinary problems are benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), prostatitis, and prostate cancer.
BPH is not cancer, but it can occur simultaneously with prostate cancer, although it does not increase your risk of prostate cancer. BPH symptoms include the following five symptoms:
- Frequent urination, particularly at night
- Interrupted or weak urinary stream
- Need to urinate after urinating
- Trouble starting urination
- Urgent urination
Depending on the severity of BPH, it can be treated with prescription medication, minimally invasive therapies, or surgery.
Prostatitis has three basic classifications:
- Acute bacterial prostatitis – a bacterial infection that may include lower back pain, fever, chills, and/or urinary symptoms.
- Chronic prostatitis – repeated inflammation of the prostate with symptoms similar to acute prostatis only less intense.
- Nonbacterial prostatitis – inflammation caused by a unknown source.
Both acute and chronic prostatitis respond well to antibiotics and nonbacterial prostatitis improves with pain medication and anit-inflammatory medications.
Prostate cancer is a malignant tumor that develops and grows in the prostate gland, and can spread to the bones, lymph node system, or other organs where it can metastasize. Exactly what causes prostate cancer is not clear, but there are four risk factors:
- Age. Men over 65 years old increase their chance of prostate cancer by 70%.
- Diet. Vegetables, soy/legumes, vitamin E, and selenium provide protective benefits against prostate cancer. Lycopene, found in tomatoes, has also been consistently linked to reduced incidences of prostate cancer, while several studies show meats and fats increase prostate cancer risks.
- Family History. Men whose father or brother(s) developed prostate cancer are 1000% more likely to develop prostate cancer.
- Race/Ethnicity. According to Dr. David F. Penson, associate professor of urology and preventive medicine at Keck School of Medicine, African-American men between the ages of 65 and 69 are 63% more likely to get prostate cancer than Caucasian men, and African-American men also have more than a two times greater chance of dying from prostate cancer than Caucasian men.
It is interesting to note, one out of six men over the age of 50 will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime and one out of thirty-three men over the age of 50 will die from it. The good news is if it is caught early it is highly treatable and survival rates have greatly increased in the last twenty years.
Diagnostic tests—bone scans, CT scans, or MRIs—help to determine what stage the prostate cancer is at and treatments for prostate cancer varies according to
- the Patient’s age and health.
- the stage at which the cancer is detected.
- whether the cancer has returned or just been diagnosed.
According to the National Cancer Institute, treatments include watchful waiting, surgery, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy. There are also clincal trials being tested for cryosurgery, chemotherapy, biologic therapy, and high-intensity focused ultrasound.
Today, the best way to ensure good prostate health is through screening. The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society recommend all men over forty get an annual digital rectal exam (DRE). In addition, men in the high risk groups, such as African-American men, should have an annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, as well as the rectal exam.
The National Prostate Cancer Coalition is offering free and confidential prostate screenings throughout the year with their 39-foot mobile screening unit. Here is the website link for the schedule http://www.fightprostatecancer.org/site/Calendar?view=MonthGrid. By checking the schedule you can determine when a mobile unit will be in your area.