Shining a Light on Prostate Health
Prostate Health Awareness Month is is a great opportunity for caregivers to help increase public understanding of the importance of prostate health through education. When we understand the risk factors and symptoms of prostate-related diseases, as well as the approaches to screening and prevention, we are all better equipped to share that information with friends and loved ones.
Though close to 90 percent of men in the US develop some type of prostate problem in the before the age of 60, most don’t recognize or even understand the cause until they have actual symptoms.
So…What is the Prostate?
The prostate is a male reproductive organ, a muscular gland about the size of a small apricot that surrounds the urethra just beneath the bladder. As part of the male reproductive system, the prostate gland’s main purpose is to secrete a slightly alkaline fluid that forms part of the seminal fluid, a fluid that carries sperm.
The very location of the prostate—just below the bladder, in front of the rectum, and wrapping around the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body—means prostate problems can affect both urination and sexual function.
Common Problems of the Prostate
Prostatic disease becomes increasingly widespread with age, affecting more than half of American men over the age of 60.
“The good news about prostatic disease is that the latest generation of drugs and surgical advances allow us to offer treatments that help men recapture their quality of life,” said Jeffrey Bennett, MD, urologist with South Shore Urology.
The prostate is prone to three main conditions:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Frequently referred to as enlarged prostate, BPH is a very common condition affecting men as they grow older. When the prostate is enlarged it can make the prostate compress the urethra and slow or even stop the flow of urine. “In much the same way that bending a garden hose hinders the flow of water, BPH affects urinary function by hindering the flow of urine in the form of a weak or slow urinary stream, and general feeling of incomplete emptying of the bladder,” Dr. Bennett explained.
- Prostatitis. Often described as an infection of the prostate, prostatitis can also be an inflammation with no sign of infection. Prostatitis can cause burning or painful urination, the urgent need to urinate, trouble urinating, difficult or painful ejaculation, and pain in the area between the scrotum and rectum (known as the perineum) or in the lower back.
- Prostate Cancer. In the United States alone, about 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Prostate cancers usually grow slowly. Most men with prostate cancer are older than 65 years and do not die from the disease. “A full discussion about the risks and benefits of screening for prostate cancer should be performed on men starting around age 50,” Dr. Bennett said.
Both prostate cancer and benign prostatic disease are highly treatable. The best treatment choice for prostatic disease depends on a number of factors including the size of your prostate, your age, your overall health and the amount of discomfort you are experiencing. Every treatment decision should involve a thoughtful conversation with your physician.
Whenever possible, treatment for diseases of the prostate begins with medication or noninvasive therapies that will help you return to everyday activities quickly. Ultimately, decisions about screening should be individualized based on your level of risk and overall health as well as your desire for treatment if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer.
- Medication. Medication is the most common treatment for mild to moderate symptoms of prostate enlargement. The medicines used help shrink the prostate or relax muscles near the prostate to ease symptoms. “Twenty years ago, the only treatment for an enlarged prostate was surgery,” Bennett said. “Now, we have a host of medications that can alleviate symptoms by shrinking the prostate, all carrying a low risk of sexual dysfunction.”
- Minimally Invasive or Surgical Therapy. If non-invasive measure have not worked, your doctor may suggest surgery to help with urine flow. “One minimally-invasive option we use is known as GreenLightTM laser surgery,” Bennett said. “A high-power green light laser removes excess prostate tissue, offering rapid relief of BPH symptoms and urine flow with the ease of an outpatient, minimally invasive alternative to traditional surgery.”
- Active Surveillance. If your symptoms are not too bad, your doctor may tell you to wait to see if they get worse before starting treatment. Your doctor will tell you how often to return for regular checkups.
Personalized Care from a Team of Prostate Health Specialists
South Shore Hospital’s regional urology program is ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, with board-certified experts utilizing the latest technologies, new medications and less invasive procedures to personalize treatment options.