Problems with the prostate are common, especially in men over 50. Keeping the prostate healthy, along with regular prostate screenings, can prevent prostate disorders from developing and can help to identify any potential problems in the earliest stages, making treatment more effective.
The prostate is a small, walnut sized organ found only in men. It is part of the reproductive system and is located just below the bladder, in front of the rectum. The prostate surrounds the urethra – the tube responsible for carrying urine and semen out of the body. Its primary function is to produce the thick, white fluid that makes up part of the semen to protect and nourish sperm. The muscles of the prostate also help the semen be expelled at force during ejaculation.
Common Prostate Problems
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
Benign prostatic hyperplasia is a common disorder in older men. It causes the prostate to become enlarged but is not linked to prostate cancer and does not increase your risk of getting it. It does, however, share similar symptoms.
Prostate cancer develops when the cells in the prostate gland start to reproduce and grow uncontrollably, which can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue. It often grows very slowly, and many men can have it for years without any symptoms.
Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland, which is sometimes caused by a bacterial infection. If it is caused by a bacterial infection, it is often accompanied by symptoms such as a fever, chills, and pain in the pelvic area.
Is My Prostate Healthy?
The risk of prostate problems usually increases with age, and although they can’t always be prevented, there are ways to help keep your prostate healthy and reduce your risks. An annual prostate exam is the best way to be completely sure your prostate is healthy, but here are some other signs your prostate gland is in good health.
1. Being A Healthy Weight
Being overweight or obese, or leading a sedentary lifestyle, can lead to obstructed blood flow and can increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer and erectile problems.
2. Keeping Physically Active
Regular exercise is very important in helping to maintain good blood flow to muscles, including the prostate. Research has shown that even a few hours of exercise a week can improve prostate health. Regular physical activity may also prevent prostate enlargement from worsening.
3. Eating the Right Foods
Research has found that a diet rich in zinc (shellfish, meat, poultry, and vegetables), selenium (shellfish, tuna, wheat germ, liver, and kidney) soy, sulforaphane (leafy green vegetables) and lycopene (certain fruits and vegetables) contain powerful antioxidants that are key for male reproductive health, particularly prostate health, and may reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. A diet high in animal fat has been linked to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
4. Not Smoking
Smoking can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer by affecting circulating hormone levels as well as through exposure to carcinogens.
5. Healthy Sex Life
The prostate gland is the muscle used during ejaculation. There is evidence that frequent ejaculation can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer and keep the prostate healthy.
6. A Normal PSA
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein found in the blood that is produced by the prostate gland. A majority of men have PSA levels under four (ng/mL), but blood levels of PSA can be elevated in men with prostate cancer. PSA may also be elevated due to other reasons, such as infection.
7. Regular Prostate Screenings
Prostate cancer screenings are the most effective way to identify prostate cancer, even before symptoms appear. Prostate cancer can often be treated successfully if detected early. Men over the age of 50, those with a family history of certain types of cancer, and men of African-American descent are at increased risk of prostate cancer.
8. Prostate Feels Normal
During an annual prostate exam, your urologist will usually carry out a rectal exam. A normal prostate should feel firm without any hard areas. If hard spots are discovered, further investigation may be necessary.
9. Healthy Ultrasound Results
During prostate screenings, an ultrasound may be carried out to check the overall health of the prostate. Sound waves help create an accurate image of the prostate. If there are no obvious abnormalities, this can suggest the prostate gland is in good health.
10. Normal Biopsy
A biopsy may be carried out to check for cancer cells. This involves collecting a very small tissue sample from the prostate gland via a needle to check for abnormalities. If the biopsy is normal, your prostate is considered healthy.
Symptoms of Prostate Problems
Visit your doctor at the earliest opportunity if you experience any of the following symptoms, which can be signs of a prostate problem – one of which could be cancer:
· Frequent urge to urinate
· Increased need to urinate during the night – nocturia
· Pain or burning during urination
· Pain during ejaculation
· Blood in urine or semen
· Difficulty starting urination
· Straining when urinating
· Dribbling at the end of urination
· Weak or intermittent urine stream
· Sensation of not completely emptying the bladder
· Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, pelvis, hips, rectal area, or upper thighs