Maintaining Prostate Health

Contributed by Dr. Oneeka Williams, Urologist, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which serves as a good reminder to discuss how proper prevention, screening and, if necessary, treatment can address prostate cancer and other common disorders. All men have a prostate, which means that all men are at risk for prostate problems. This risk increases with age.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland which sits just below the bladder and surrounds the urethra, the tube through which urine and semen exit the body.

The three most common problems associated with the prostate are:

  • Prostatitis: This condition develops when the prostate becomes inflamed sometimes resulting in pain, a swollen prostate and urinary symptoms
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): A normal prostate can start increasing in size as early as age 35, causing BPH (an enlarged prostate). An enlarged prostate can compress the urethra causing urinary problems.
  • Prostate cancer: Prostate cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in America. Tumors are often slow-growing and highly treatable. Recommendations for who should be screened have changed dramatically over the past five years to address issues of overtreatment.

The medical community previously agreed that after a certain age, all men should be screened for prostate problems. However, the latest medical research suggests that prostate cancer screenings are no longer considered necessary for all men.

For this reason, men should now have a personal discussion with their physician when they reach the age associated with their level of risk and make an educated decision on whether to pursue screening. Experts believe aging, diet, heredity and race are all factors in prostate health.

Some symptoms of prostate disease include pain, burning and difficulty in urinating; blood in the urine or semen; painful ejaculation; and lower back pain.

For those who do decide to be screened, the most common exams include:

  • Digital rectal exam (DRE): Although some men consider this test embarrassing, it is a quick, simple procedure that could save your life.
  • PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test: For men over 50 or earlier for men in high risk groups, such as African-Americans or those with a family history of prostate cancer.

If diagnosed, a urologist can discuss and determine the best course of treatment for each individual patient. Treatments for prostatitis and BPH often include a low-fat diet and medications, while prostate cancer is typically treated with hormone therapy, surgery and/or radiation.

Finally, one of the most significant problems in maintaining prostate health is that men are often reluctant or embarrassed to discuss it – even with their doctor. Prostate problems are common in men and most easily resolved when they are addressed in a timely fashion. Thus, it is important for men to feel comfortable discussing their prostate health and engaging in honest conversations with their physician to determine whether screening and/or treatment is the right course for them.

For an appointment with Dr. Williams or any of our St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center urologists, call 800-488-5959 or visit Steward DoctorFinder™.

To find a doctor or schedule an appointment, visit Steward DoctorFinder™.