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It’s common for men to have prostate issues as they get older. But in order to understand what those issues are and how to recognize them, you need to know what the prostate actually is. If you find yourself ready to open up a new Google search tab right about now, you’re not alone. Coordinated Health urologist Dr. Jonathan Bingham says many of his patients ask what the prostate is.
“The prostate is a gland involved in the male reproductive system, positioned just below the bladder. It makes some of the fluid that comes out when a man ejaculates,” Dr. Bingham explains.
Now that we have that covered, lets look at top things every man should know about prostate health as they grow older. (And learn more about urology services at Coordinated Health.)
The prostate continues to grow throughout a man’s life, and an enlarged prostate can cause urinary problems for some men as they get older. The prostate is shaped a bit like a doughnut, Dr. Bingham explains, and the ‘doughnut hole’ can close up as the prostate grows. This often leads to urinary difficulties, like slowing of the urinary stream, incomplete bladder emptying, and frequent bathroom trips, especially during the night.
Medications are typically the first step in treating an enlarged prostate. “These medications work to open the ‘doughnut hole’ of the prostate, which allows the urine stream to improve because the pressure on it is removed,” Dr. Bingham explains.
Surgery to open the channel through which the urine travels is also a possibility if symptoms are more severe. That’s the case when there are significant problems with urination or damage to the bladder has occurred because it is working too hard to push urine out of the body. According to Dr. Bingham, most surgeries for enlarged prostate are done using a scope inserted through the urethra.
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, according to the American Cancer Society, and about one in nine men will be diagnosed. Unfortunately, prostate cancer usually does cause symptoms until the cancer has progressed and spread to other organs. “We are good at curing prostate cancer if it is still confined to the prostate and has not spread. Once it has spread, it is much more difficult to treat and cure. This is why prostate cancer screenings are extremely important,” Dr. Bingham stresses.
Urologists use a prostate-specific antigen or PSA blood test to screen for prostate cancer. For most men, the American Cancer Society advises starting yearly prostate exams at age 50. Men at high-risk of prostate cancer, including African Americans and men with a family history of prostate cancer, should begin screenings at age 45.