Prostate Health 101

Taking care of your health, especially when it concerns the prostate, is the right thing to do. The older you get, the more important your prostate health becomes. Regular check ups are key to ensuring that your prostate is working as it should, but you should always contact your doctor if you are noticing any changes in your health or feeling any symptoms that cannot go ignored.

The American Cancer Society recommends that men should begin talking with their doctors about prostate testing at age 50. However, this conversation may need to start at age 40, depending on personal factors like your race, and whether any of your immediate family members had prostate cancer before the age of 65.

One of the most routine prostate cancer screening examinations is called a PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, which can be done to measure the level of a particular protein produced by the prostate in your blood stream. Typically, the higher the PSA level, the higher the probability for prostate cancer. However, an elevated PSA does not always mean cancer. Your doctor will take a closer look at your results and recommend further action. This test, coupled with a rectal exam, is the most recommended way to detect both prostate cancer, as well as less serious conditions.

Another common prostate condition is BPH, or the enlarging of the prostate. Men as young as 30 may begin experiencing problems with flow, urgency, and feelings of incomplete emptying as a result of BPH, explains Tim Schuster, MD, FACS, urologist with ProMedica Physicians.

“BPH is benign prostatic hyperplasia. The prostate itself is an organ in men that produces some of the fluid in semen. It’s predominantly for sperm health, but as we age it starts to enlarge. As it enlarges, that’s called BPH and that enlargement can in many men impact their ability to urinate,” says Dr. Schuster.

If left untreated, men may experience more difficulties with urinating as well as urinary retention or urinary tract infections. Blood vessels on the inside of the prostate may enlarge enough in some men that they may rupture and cause blood in the urine.

“There’s actually not a great way in and of itself to prevent BPH from happening. It’s a natural part of aging that the prostate gets bigger. It’s more just a matter of treating the symptoms as they arise,” says Dr. Schuster. These treatments can include dietary and behavioral modifications, medications and surgical treatments.

Dr. Schuster also says that genetics, as well as age, play a role in relation to risks of developing both prostate cancer and BPH.

“Avoidance of a western diet, such as high fat, high intake of red meat and processed meats, refined grains and high sugar drinks, with a diet high in antioxidant fruits and vegetables have been shown to be beneficial in decreasing the risk of prostate cancer. Getting regular checkups from your physician is the most important piece of advice for getting screened for prostate cancer, as this disease is oftentimes asymptomatic until it is in a more advanced stage.”

If you think you may be experiencing prostate issues, contact your family physician to begin a course of action.