September is National Prostate Health Month
Prostate Health Month: Raising Awareness of Prostate Health Among American Men
Bringing together current educational efforts on Prostate Cancer, the national month encourages men to become educated about prostate health and to take action if they experience prostate problems.
Further, National Prostate Health Month emphasizes the importance of prostate health to all men.
The Prostate, Its Function, and Its Diseases
“Most of my patients lack knowledge about prostate health and are afraid of diagnosis and the potential side effects of various treatments including impotence and incontinence,” said Leonard S. Marks, M.D., founding Medical Director of the Urological Sciences Research Foundation.
The prostate is a gland of the male reproductive system located in front of the rectum and just below the bladder. About the size and shape of a walnut, the prostate wraps around the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out through the tip of the penis.
The main function of the prostate is to produce fluid for semen, which transports sperm. The three most common conditions affecting the prostate are benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), prostatitis and prostate cancer.
3 Most Common Prostate Conditions
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH): BPH is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate, is the most common of prostate conditions among men. In fact, more than 50 percent of men age 60, and 80 percent of men age 80, are estimated to suffer from BPH. The enlargement often squeezes the urethra where it runs through the prostate. Symptoms of BPH include difficulty initiating urination, weak urinary stream, and waking several times at night to urinate. BPH is more common among older men, because as a man ages, his prostate naturally enlarges.
Prostatitis: Prostatitis an inflammation of the prostate, is not contagious and modern medicine does not yet clearly understand the way in which the prostate becomes infected. The bacteria that cause prostatitis may get into the prostate from the urethra by backward flow of infected urine. Both acute and chronic prostatitis can be treated with antibiotics; however, noninfectious prostatitis is not treatable with antibiotics although muscle relaxants, hot sitz baths, periodic prostatic massage and other treatments may offer some relief of symptoms.
Prostate cancer: Prostate cancer is a malignant tumor that most often begins in the outer part of the prostate. As the tumor grows, it may spread to the inner part of the prostate. Treatment options for prostate cancer include watchful waiting, hormonal therapy, radiation, brachytherapy and surgery. There are two tests critical to detecting men at higher risk of prostate cancer and other prostate diseases: digital rectal exam (DRE), and the prostate-specific antigen test (PSA test). A high PSA can indicate a greater chance of developing prostate cancer.
What Is Prostate Cancer Screening?
Cancer screening means looking for cancer before it causes symptoms. The goal of screening for prostate cancer is to find cancer early that may spread if not treated.
There is no standard test to screen for prostate cancer. Two tests that are commonly used to screen for prostate cancer are:
- A blood test called a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. PSA is a substance your prostate makes. This test measures the level of PSA in your blood. Your PSA level may be high if you have prostate cancer and for many other reasons, such as having an enlarged prostate, a prostate infection, or taking certain medicines.
- Digital rectal examination, when a health care provider inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into a man’s rectum to feel the prostate for anything abnormal, such as cancer.
Screening may find cancer that is likely to spread to other places in the body, so it can be treated before it spreads. This may lower the chance of death from prostate cancer in some men.