The Hoopla About Movember

By Intern: Armond Schwartz

Movmeber is all about bringing awareness to men’s health issues, like prostate and testicular health. Many people are unaware of the job of the prostate and problems that arise with prostate as we age.  First, what is the prostate? The prostate gland is a male reproductive organ that sits below the bladder. It wraps around the urethra, the tube that carries urine in the penis. The job of the prostate is to secrete fluid during ejaculation to protect the sperm.[i] Because of its position on the urethra, the changes to the prostate can lead to problems with urination. The two biggest medical issues related to the prostate are Prostate Cancer, and Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is the enlargement of the prostate.

So what should you know about these two conditions and when is the right time to begin talking about these issues with your physician? It is always a good idea to initiate conversations with your doctor early. Generally, you should begin discussing prostate issues with your doctor at around the age of fifty. However, if you have a first degree relative who has had prostate cancer, such as a father, or a brother, you should begin talking to your doctor at the age of forty. Also because black men have a higher risk of prostate cancer, they should talk to their doctor about screening at age forty as well.  Also, men who have a diet high in red meat are at an increased risk for prostate cancer.[ii]

What exactly is BPH and who does it effect? BPH is extraordinarily common condition.  In fact, around fifty percent of men in their sixties have BPH. Over ninety percent of men over eighty have BPH. Common symptoms of BPH are difficulty urinating, to urinate often, a weak urine stream, difficulty fully emptying your bladder, and dribbling and leakage after you urinate.[iii] Some men may find it difficult to talk to the doctor about problems concerning urination. It is important because there are treatments, and Prostate Cancer could be the issues. In fact, BPH can be treated both through medication and through surgery.

The other major disease affecting the prostate is Prostate Cancer. Prostate Cancer sounds like a deadly diagnosis, but it can be effectively treated if caught early. In fact, in the United State Prostate Cancer has a ninety-nine percent survival rate at five years.[iv] Prostate cancer is also fairly common. One in six men living in the United States will experience prostate cancer in their lifetime.[v]  Prostate cancer is generally a slow growing cancer so early stage Prostate Cancer does not always produce symptoms. However it is good to know some common symptoms, these include: increased urination, urgency to urinate, bed-wetting, and erectile dysfunction. Less commonly, men notice blood in their urine or sperm.[vi] Because these symptoms are very similar to BPH, you should discuss any symptoms related to urination with your doctor.

Doctors have several tools to screen for prostate cancer. Your doctor can best decided which tests are appropriate. One of the most common is a blood test called PSA. PSA stands for prostate specific antigen, which can help your doctor screen for both BPH and Prostate Cancer. Another common test is the digital rectal exam, during which your doctor will feel your prostate with his or her finger. If either of the tests is abnormal there are additional tests that can help your doctor diagnose Prostate Cancer and discern it from BPH.

It is important to remember that as you age, it becomes common to have issues with your prostate. These problems can lead to problems urinating. This is common, and you should discuss your symptoms with your doctor as treatment might help.  As you approach the age of fifty you should ask your doctor if it is time to begin screening for Prostate Cancer. If you have a father, brother or child who has experienced Prostate cancer, or if you are black, you should talk to your doctor about screening at age forty.  BPH and Prostate Cancer are quite common and the first step towards detection and treatment is an early conversation with your doctor.

[i] Incontinence and Overactive Bladder Health Center. WebMD website. http://www.webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/picture-of-the-prostate. November 15, 2014. Accessed September 17, 2015.

[ii] Papadakis MA, McPhee SJ. Prostate Cancer. In: Papadakis MA, McPhee SJ. eds. Quick Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2015. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2015. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?bookid=1387&Sectionid=79290098. Accessed September 13, 2015.

[iii] Chao S, Chippendale R. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia & Prostate Cancer. In: Williams BA, Chang A, Ahalt C, Chen H, Conant R, Landefeld C, Ritchie C, Yukawa M. eds. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Geriatrics, Second Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?bookid=953&Sectionid=53375664. Accessed September 17, 2015.

[iv] Chao S, Chippendale R. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia & Prostate Cancer. In:Williams BA, Chang A, Ahalt C, Chen H, Conant R, Landefeld C, Ritchie C, Yukawa M. eds. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Geriatrics, Second Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014.http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?bookid=953&Sectionid=53375664. Accessed September 13, 2015

[v] Uptodate page 1. Sartor, AO. Risk factors for prostate cancer. In: UpToDate, Volgelzang, N(Ed), UpToDate, Ross, ME. (Accessed on September, 11, 2015.)

[vi] Chao S, Chippendale R. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia & Prostate Cancer. In:Williams BA, Chang A, Ahalt C, Chen H, Conant R, Landefeld C, Ritchie C, Yukawa M. eds. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Geriatrics, Second Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014.http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?bookid=953&Sectionid=53375664. Accessed September 13, 2015