It’s that time of year when men everywhere are showing off their mustaches or beards. It’s not just the fashion; it’s also Movember and No-Shave November. These popular organizations have been working to bring attention to men’s health issues, with a particular focus on cancer awareness. You may know what the mustaches represent, but do you know the basics of prostate health and how to tell if you or a loved one is at risk?
To help spread prostate health awareness, we’re here to explain what a prostate is, its function, potential health issues, and what you can do to protect your prostate health.
The prostate isn’t an organ but a gland that operates as a functioning part of the male reproductive system. Usually walnut-sized, it assists in the production of semen by secreting a fluid that nourishes and protects sperm. During ejaculation, the prostate squeezes this fluid into the urethra, from which it’s expelled.
Potential Prostate Issues
As men age, their prostates become larger. They may grow from the size of walnuts to more like apricot- or even lemon-size. This is all normal. However, the prostate surrounds part of the urethra, so as it grows it can constrict the tube connected with the urethra, causing issues with urination. This could result in a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
Additionally, men can develop prostatitis, which is an inflammation or infection of the prostate that can cause trouble urinating, fever and/or chills, and sexual problems.
Men can also develop prostate cancer, when cells in the gland become abnormal as they grow. These mutations cause abnormal cells to grow rapidly and survive while normal cells quickly die. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among U.S. men. There are no early signs of prostate cancer, which is why risk awareness and early detection are so important.
Advanced symptoms are typically trouble urinating, decreased urine stream, blood in semen, discomfort in the pelvic area, bone pain, and erectile dysfunction. But by the time you notice these symptoms, prostate cancer is so advanced it can be hard to beat.
Prostate issues can occur in any man of any age; however, most problems arise in men over 50. Prostatitis is the most common issue for men under 50, and BPH is the most common for men over 50. Prostate cancer is more common in men over the age of 50. Most men are diagnosed with prostate cancer around age 65.
Family history, diet, and even geography have been explored as possible prostate cancer risk factors. But for most prostate problems, including developing cancer, age is the biggest risk factor.
If your age puts you at risk, the best thing to do is to have a plan for early detection. Your doctor can advise you about a PSA test, and other methods to detect prostate cancer early. Keeping track of your lower urinary tract functions and watching for symptoms is a smart way to watch for other prostate issues.
Prostate health is important for all men and their loved ones to understand. This November, whether you’re growing out that ’stache or not, make sure to stay on top of your health and help spread the word.