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A Woman's Guide to Prostate Health
Author : Carolyn Eagle, Senior Editor, Health Media Today Category : Health and Wellness
Understanding the male prostate is more important than you may think as a woman. We are often, after all, the health and wellness watchdogs of our families and that includes the men in our lives. That’s why we have compiled this handy guide to that elusive male organ, its function, and what problems to look out for.
What is the Prostate?
A small, squishy, walnut sized organ, the prostate is divided into left and right lobes. It can be found in front of the rectum and just below the bladder. It is a part of the male reproductive system, adding nutrients and fluid to sperm and it is surrounded by the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine and semen through the penis. Just above the prostate, you can find the seminal vehicles which secrete the majority of the substances that make up semen. Attached to the sides, and running alongside the prostate are the nerves that cause erectile function.
Who is at Risk for Prostate Cancer?
There are several factors which increase the risk of developing prostate cancer. Some are preventable, some are not. The most common are:
Men Over 50: Although the risk begins to increase after the age of 50, many doctors recommend men in their 40s begin getting prostate checks and tests. Most cases are in men over 65
Family History: As with many cancers, the risk of prostate cancer is higher if you have a first degree relative such as a father or brother, with the disease. With each additional first degree relative who develops the disease, your risk goes up.
Ethnic Descent: Men of Caribbean or African descent have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer while men of Asian descent have a lower risk.
Obesity and Poor Diet: Men who are overweight and who eat high fat, low fibre diets are at increased risk. Saturated fats are thought to promote the growth of cancer cells by increasing hormone production.
Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Problems
Because of the location and function of the prostate, any enlargement can cause symptoms by pressing on the urethra and surrounding tissues and nerves. The red flags to look out for are:
· Needing to urinate often, especially at night
· Burning or pain during urination
· An intense, urgent need to urinate
· Weak or decreased urine stream
· Inability to urinate
· Difficulty starting or stopping a urine flow
· Interrupted urine stream
· Feeling that you can’t fully empty the bladder
· Blood in urine or semen
· Painful ejaculation
Prostate Exams and Check-Ups
Having a fully physical with your doctor is the best way to stay on top of your prostate health since they will usually do a check as part of a routine exam. Prostate Cancer Canada also recommends men in their 40s get a PSA test. This is a measure of the amount of PSA protein in the blood and will provide a baseline reading. The growth of cancerous cells or other prostate conditions produce more PSA protein in the blood which can be measured against this baseline.