Many men aren’t sure what their prostate is, what it does, or when to call a doctor if they think they might have a problem. So, information is the best tool you have in dealing with this aspect of men’s health.
The prostate helps make some of the fluid in semen, which carries sperm from your testicles when you ejaculate.
Who Might Get an Enlarged Prostate?
As you age, your prostate can become larger. It’s a normal part of aging for most men. By the time you reach age 40, your prostate might have gone from the size of a walnut to the size of an apricot. By the time you reach 60, it might be the size of a lemon.
Because it surrounds part of the urethra, the enlarged prostate can squeeze that tube. This causes problems when you try to pee. Typically, you won’t see these problems until you’re 50 or older, but they can start earlier.
You might hear a doctor or nurse call this condition benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It is not cancerous.
BPH is common and cannot be prevented. Age and a family history of BPH are two things that increase the chances you might get it. A few stats on that:
- Some 8 out of every 10 men eventually develop an enlarged prostate.
- About 90% of men over the age of 85 will have BPH.
- About 30% of men will find their symptoms bothersome.
If you have trouble starting to urinate or have to go a lot, especially at night, these could be signals that you have an enlarged prostate. Other signs and symptoms include:
- Your bladder doesn’t empty completely after you pee.
- You feel the need to pee out of the blue with no sensation of build-up.
- You may stop and start peeing several times.
- You have to strain to get any flow going.
It’s important that you see your doctor if you have early symptoms of BPH. Although rare, it can lead to serious problems such as kidney or bladder damage.
A larger prostate doesn’t mean you’ll have more or worse symptoms. It’s different for each person. In fact, some men with very large prostates have few, if any, issues. But your doctor should be aware either way.
How your doctor handles your condition depends on the details of your case - your age, how much trouble it’s causing, and more. Treatments may include:
- Watchful waiting. If you have an enlarged prostate but are not bothered by symptoms, you may be advised merely to get an annual checkup, which might include a variety of tests.
- Lifestyle changes. This includes cutting back on how much you drink at night and before bedtime, especially drinks with alcohol or caffeine.
- Common treatments for BPH are alpha-blockers, which ease BPH symptoms, and what’s called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, or 5-ARIs, which help shrink the prostate.
- Men with severe symptoms who haven’t been helped by other treatments might have to turn to surgery. Talk to your doctor about possible risks and outcomes.
This is an infection or inflammation of the prostate; it’s not the same thing as BPH, though some of the symptoms are similar.
It can affect men from their late teens well into old age. Symptoms include:
- Trouble passing urine
- Chills and fever
- Sexual problems
Treatment usually includes antibiotics.
If you have recently had a catheter or other medical instrument put into your urethra, you have a higher chance of getting bacterial prostatitis. Some sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia, may also cause ongoing infection and inflammation.
Frequent ejaculation, whether it happens during sexual intercourse, masturbation, or a dream, isn’t likely to increase men’s risk of prostate cancer. In fact, new research suggests it may have the opposite effect and help protect the prostate.
Researchers say it’s too soon to recommend that men change their sexual habits in an attempt to lower their prostate cancer risk. However, the study raises interesting questions about the role of ejaculation and sexual behavior in the development of prostate cancer.
Previous studies have linked frequent sexual activity to a higher risk of prostate cancer, but this new, large study found ejaculation frequency was not associated with prostate cancer risk except in the highest category. Men who ejaculated most often actually had a 33% lower lifetime risk of prostate cancer, and this relationship grew stronger as men grew older.
Screening for Cancer
Screening for prostate cancer is controversial. You may read different kinds of advice and guidance from various sources.
The American Cancer Society says men should talk to their doctors about the benefits, risks, and limits of prostate cancer screening before deciding whether to be tested. This discussion should take place:
- At age 50 for men with an average chance for prostate cancer
- At 45 for men with a higher chance for the condition: this includes African-Americans and men who have a father, brother, or son who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer at 65 or younger
- At age 40 for men who have more than 1 first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age
The American Urological Association recommends that men age 55 to 69 who are considering screening should talk with their doctor about the risks and benefits of testing and make the decision based on their personal situation and needs.
Routine Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) screening is not recommended for men older than 70, or for any man who is expected to live only 10 to 15 more years.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force doesn’t recommend routine PSA screening for men in the general population, regardless of age.