Understanding Your Prostate

January 08,2021 |
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The prostate is a small gland that makes up a big part of the male reproductive system. It’s located just below your bladder, in front of the rectum, and partially surrounds the urethra. Your prostate assists your reproductive system by producing fluid in semen, which helps carry the sperm from your testicles during ejaculation. While many men suffer from urologic conditions that relate to the prostate, there are treatment options available. Understanding your prostate is important to stay healthy and catch any signs or symptoms of chronic conditions, disease, or cancer before it progresses. Here’s what you need to know to protect your prostate and recognize when it’s time to see a doctor.   

Prostate Changes That Occur with Age

Your prostate is one of the glands that’s responsible for the production of semen. It’s an integral part of the male reproductive system, but over time it begins to change and can lead to problems. In fact, the prostate is one of the only parts of your body that continues to grow.

Throughout your life, your prostate will undergo two distinct growth cycles. During the first cycle, which occurs throughout puberty, your prostate doubles in size. It then remains a constant size until you’re about 25. At this time, it begins to slowly grow and continues to do so throughout the remainder of your life. While this is completely normal, some men experience a faster growth rate that leads to an enlarged prostate. This results in a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Since growth is continuous, BPH is a progressive disease that can result in complications when left untreated.

If you notice any urinary symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor today. The sooner that you catch any problems, the more effective treatment will be. Tell your doctor if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Are urinating more often than usual during the day
  • Have an urgent need to pass urine
  • Have less urine flow
  • Feel a burning sensation when you urinate
  • Need to get up many times throughout the night to urinate

Problems with the Prostate

Due to ongoing growth, the prostate is susceptible to a number of different diseases and conditions. The three most common problems with the prostate include benign prostatic hyperplasia, also known as enlarged prostate, prostatitis, and prostate cancer.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Benign prostatic hyperplasia is one of the most common prostate problems that aging men experience. About 8 out of 10 men will eventually develop an enlarged prostate. While BPH is not cancerous, it is associated with abnormal cell growth. The prostate becomes more enlarged than usual, which leads to an array of different symptoms and complications—many of which are similar to prostate cancer. If you notice any signs of BPH, see your doctor as soon as possible. It’s important to get the proper diagnosis to administer the correct treatment and rule out cancer.

Some of the first symptoms that you will notice affect urination. You may experience any of the following:

  • Difficulty beginning urination
  • Feeling like the bladder is full, even after urinating
  • A weak or disrupted stream
  • Urgency
  • Feeling like you need to push or strain excessively to urinate
  • Dribbling after urination
  • The inability to urinate at all (severe cases)
  • Hematuria (severe cases)

There are plenty of natural and medical treatment options for enlarged prostate, so talk to your doctor to determine what will work best for you. Some men may also choose to wait and see how symptoms progress if they are not causing major disruptions to your life. Always talk to your doctor about your course of treatment and if you have any questions or concerns.

Prostatitis

Prostatitis is the medical term for inflammation of the prostate gland. This inflammation can lead to a swollen or tender prostate, which can exasperate symptoms. There are four primary types of prostatitis. Each different type has unique symptoms and causes. The four types of prostatitis include:

  • Chronic Prostatitis – this is the most common type of prostatitis. It’s commonly referred to as chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS).
  • Acute Bacterial Prostatitis – inflammation is caused by bacteria in the prostate that occurs suddenly and is associated with severe symptoms like high fever, chills, pain, cloudy urine, and difficulty urinating. See your doctor immediately if you think you have acute bacterial prostatitis.
  • Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis – this infection is more mild than acute bacterial prostatitis and can develop over a period of several months—often after a UTI.
  • Asymptomatic Prostatitis – this type of prostatitis is presented without symptoms, but the prostate is still inflamed, and a lack of treatment can lead to infertility.

If you experience any signs or symptoms of prostatitis, see your urologist. While there’s a lack of research surrounding the cause of prostatitis, there are ways to manage your symptoms and control associated pain.

Prostate Cancer

Cancer occurs when the cells in your body begin to mutate and grow out of control. The type of cancer depends on the localization of these abnormal cells. Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate gland are affected. Unfortunately, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men aside from skin cancer and your risk factors increase as you age. You may have an increased risk of prostate cancer if you have a family history or if you are African American. Luckily, when caught early, prostate cancer has an extremely high curability rate. Many of the symptoms of prostate cancer are similar to those of BPH, which is why seeing your urologist is so important.

If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, there are a number of different treatment options including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and more.

While prostate surgery is one of the best ways to eradicate prostate cancer, it can lead to certain side effects. One of the hardest things to cope with after prostate surgery is potential infertility. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and if you’re trying to start a family or grow yours, make sure that you discuss options for post-treatment fertility.

Commonly Performed Prostate Tests

If you notice any signs or symptoms of prostate problems, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your urologist. During your appointment, make sure that you’re open and honest about everything that’s going on. A verbal medical history can help your doctor better understand your risk factors and avoid overlooking small symptoms that could indicate larger problems.

Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)

DRE is one of the most widely used ways to check the prostate for any signs of abnormalities. Your doctor will insert a gloved and lubricated finger into your rectum to feel your prostate and check for size, firmness, texture, the presence of any lumps or growths, and whether or not you feel pain or pressure when the prostate is touched. 

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

A PSA test is a test that measures the amount of protein being made and secreted by the prostate ducts. If high levels of PSA are detected in the blood, it could be an indication of prostate cancer. However, this is not a definitive diagnosis. Increased levels of PSA are commonly associated with prostatitis and BPH and can be a result of stress or strain on the prostate gland from simply riding a bicycle or having an orgasm. This test is done by doctors to better understand what’s going on with your symptoms and is often accompanied by other testing.

Prostate Biopsy

If your doctor thinks that you may have prostate cancer, a biopsy is often done to confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of the cancer. This involves the capture of small tissues directly from the prostate so they can be examined under a microscope. While biopsies are commonly done, they do not always result in a cancer diagnosis. However, if you receive a positive result, cancer is present. As long as you’re regularly being screened, you should remain optimistic. When prostate cancer is caught early it has a very high rate of remission.

The Importance of Annual Prostate Exams

To make sure that your prostate is growing at a healthy rate and not causing any problems, it’s important to get regular prostate exams. After you turn 50, schedule a prostate exam with your urologist and continue to keep your appointments every year. Prostate cancer is extremely treatable when caught early and up to 90% curable. However, as the cancer spreads, it becomes more difficult to treat and doesn’t respond to treatment as well. When it comes to your health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. In addition to annual prostate exams, always contact your urologist or doctor if you notice any signs or symptoms of a problem, are experiencing pain, or suspect that you have an infection or common urologic condition. To supplement your journey to improving and monitoring the health of your prostate, the professionals at Byram Healthcare are here to help. 

 

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