What Men Over 40 Should Know About the Prostate
Prostate problems frequently occur in men over the age of 50, but it is not uncommon for men in their 40s to experience symptoms. Fortunately, with early detection, most problems with the prostate can be treated. Even if cancer is diagnosed, the relative five-year survival rate for all men is nearly 100 percent. The most common prostate problem diagnosed in men over 50 is prostate enlargement, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This condition occurs because the prostate continues to grow as a man matures, potentially squeezing the urethra and affecting bladder control. Men under the age of 50 are more likely to experience an inflammation or infection, called prostatitis.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland about the size of a walnut that is located in front of the rectum just below the bladder. It wraps around the urethra, which carries urine out of the body. The prostate is part of a man’s sex organs and is responsible for producing fluid that is part of semen. Regardless of age, men should see a doctor right away if they notice any of the following eight signs of prostate problems:
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Having to get up during the night to urinate
- Presence of blood in urine or semen
- Feeling pain or a burning sensation while urinating
- Inability to urinate
- Painful ejaculation
- Urine dribbling
- Recurrent pain or stiffness in the lower abdomen, hips, pelvic area or upper leg
How are prostate conditions diagnosed?
Diagnosing prostate problems may involve several tests, the first of which is usually the digital rectal exam (DRE). During a DRE, the physician inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate and evaluate its size, shape and condition. A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test may be ordered to check whether prostate cells are producing high levels of this protein due to the presence of cancer. A urinalysis may be necessary to detect traces of blood in the urine that could indicate a kidney stone or infection. An MRI or CT scan can be used to identify abnormal structures. The diagnosis of prostate cancer can be confirmed using a transrectal ultrasound and rectal biopsy.
What treatments are there for prostate conditions?
If BPH is diagnosed, the condition can be managed several ways. Mild symptoms may not require any treatment. However, regular checkups are necessary to make sure the condition doesn’t worsen. Other options include taking medications to shrink or relax the prostate so it does not block the bladder opening or surgery to help urine flow. Some prostate surgeries can be performed by surgeons using robotic-assisted technology.
Acute prostatitis can start suddenly and cause fever, chills or lower back pain. Another form of prostatitis, called chronic bacterial prostatitis, is an infection that occurs repeatedly. Both may be treated with antibiotics. Chronic bacterial prostatitis may require more than one round of treatment.
Different prostate problems, including prostate cancer, may cause similar symptoms.
Therefore, it’s important to talk to a doctor who specializes in urology right away if you are experiencing prostate-related symptoms or problems.