The prostate may not be essential for life but it is a vital organ responsible for bladder control as well as sexual function.
It is about the size of a small plum or walnut. It is located below the bladder and it surrounds the urethra, which is a tube that connects the bladder and the penis. When urine leaves the body it passes through the urethra. The prostate is found only in men.
There are a few common conditions that affect the prostate particularly as a man ages. One is prostatic hypertrophy, another is prostatis, and a more serious condition is prostate cancer.
Prostatic hypertrophy (also known as prostatic hyperplasia), is the enlargement of the prostate gland. It is most common in older men. In fact, 50 to 75% of men over the age of 50 will experience prostatic hypertrophy. If it is left untreated, the enlargement can actually block the flow of urine. This can lead to infections as well as kidney problems. Many men with prostatic hypertrophy end up having surgery to relieve the condition.
Symptoms of prostatic hypertrophy include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Urge to urinate at night
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Discomfort when urinating
- Blood in the urine
The exact causes are not fully understood, however, some medical experts believe it is connected with the production of male hormones.
Prostatis is inflammation of the prostate usually due to an infection. It can cause pain during urination. Some symptoms may include flu-like symptoms and/or pain in the groin area. In some cases, prostatis can go away on its own, but in other cases it will require treatment. This can be a chronic condition for some men. Unfortunately about half of all men will experience this at one time or another.
Prostate Cancer is the result of cancer forming in the tissues of the prostate. It is the most common cause of deaths related to cancer among men over 75. Though it is seen primarily in older men, prostate cancer can occur among men in their 40s.
Who is at risk?
- African-American men have a higher risk rate
- Men who have it in their family
- Men over the age of 65
Other risk factors include:
- Men who consume a diet high in fat
- Men who consume too much alcohol
It is estimated that in 2012 there will be 241,740 new prostate cancer cases and 28,170 deaths in the United States alone.
In some cases, prostate cancer can be a slow growing disease and may go undetected for a while. If it remains confined and is caught early enough, it may only require minimal treatment. But in other cases, prostate cancer is far more aggressive and spreads quickly requiring more serious measures. When it spreads, it usually moves to the surrounding tissue, then to the lymph nodes the bones and other organs. There is no cure for cancer that has metastasized.
Prostate cancer treatments usually involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or hormone therapy.
Checking Your Prostate
As men approach the age of 50, a prostate exam should be included in their general health exams. This is performed for any man at any age if there are complaints of difficulty passing urine. Unfortunately the process may not be so pleasant. Your doctor will insert a finger, covered with a glove and lubricated, into your rectum. He is looking to identify the lobes and grooves of the prostate gland.
A Healthy Prostate
The Mayo Clinic recommends eating a diet consisting mostly of fruits, vegetables and fish to promote prostate health, as these foods are high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Limiting alcohol, caffeine and foods that are hot and spicy may be helpful as well. Other suggestions:
- Maintain low cholesterol
- Reduce sugar, starch, additives, preservatives, hydrogenated fats and tobacco.
- Include supplements such as zinc in your diet
- See your doctor annually for exams
Surprisingly many men are unaware of what exactly the prostate does and the risks they may face due to health conditions, age or hereditary factors. It’s important for all men to educate themselves, talk to their doctors about any risk factors such as family history and get examined as they get older.
Elaine is the former host of “The Shape Fitness Show” on 97.1FM and 980AM in Los Angeles. Check out her site at GodaiFit.com