Hitting your 50th birthday doesn’t just mean you’ve been around for half a century. It also means your likelihood of developing prostate-related medical conditions increases. The prostate is a gland in men about the size and shape of a walnut. The prostate helps make semen and surrounds part of the urethra, a tube that carries urine out of the bladder and through the penis. Educate yourself on the most common prostate problems that face men as they age.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
BPH is a noncancerous condition that occurs when the prostate becomes enlarged. It does not increase prostate cancer risk, but many symptoms are the same. In addition to the common digital rectal exam, your doctor may examine a urine sample to ensure there are no signs of infection or traces of blood. It is important to contact your doctor if you notice any concerning symptoms. Left untreated, BPH can lead to urinary tract infections, damage to your bladder or kidneys, and other complications.
Prostatitis occurs when the prostate is inflamed or infected. It can be caused by urine that travels back into the prostate ducts. Prostatitis symptoms include pain, changes in urination, fever and chills.
There are four types:
- Acute bacterial prostatitis
- Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis
- Chronic bacterial prostatitis
- Chronic prostatitis, also called chronic pelvic pain syndrome
Prostatitis is commonly treated with medication. Talk to your doctor if you experience symptoms, as many overlap with those of other prostate problems.
Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common among men. It occurs most often in men older than 65, African-American men, Caribbean men of African ancestry and men with a family history of the condition.
Symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- Pain in the lower back
- Pain from ejaculation
- Problems urinating, including pain, burning, dribbling and difficulty beginning or ending urine flow
A digital rectal exam or prostate-specific antigen test may be used to diagnose prostate cancer. Your doctor can help you decide which testing option is right for you.
Building Better Prostate Health
Men often ask their primary care providers what they can do to reduce their risk of prostate cancer. While there is no quick fix, these lifestyle changes can offer some benefit:
- Eat a healthy diet. Reduce saturated fats that come from animal products, such as meat and dairy, and replace them with healthier fats from sources such as nuts and olive oil. Use a variety of fruits and vegetables to make your meals colorful and save sweets to eat only rarely.
- Exercise consistently. Regular physical activity is key to reducing risk of many chronic conditions, including cancer. It can decrease the amount of fat carried around the middle, which has been linked to prostate cancer. Regular exercise also reduces risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
- Stop smoking. Smokers who develop prostate cancer have a greater chance of aggressive forms of the disease. Continued smoking raises risk of reoccurrence. It’s never too late to quit. Men should talk to their primary care provider about smoking cessation strategies.