Movember is just around the corner, and with men’s health firmly in the spotlight I’d like to talk more about prostate health.
The prostate gland is an apricot-sized (or golf ball sized) muscular gland involved in the normal reproductive function of all men. Situated in the pelvis it remains unremarkable throughout life, however, it can grow over time and is susceptible to disease as men age.
Did you know that in Australia prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men? Every year it kills over 3000 men – which is more than the number of women terminally affected by breast cancer each year.
Who is at risk?
Whilst there is evidence that the prostate gland can be influenced by diet and lifestyle, the two most important risk factors for prostate diseases are increasing age and a family history in close relatives. In fact, by the age of 75, one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and by the age of 85 it affects one in every five men.
In men with no symptoms of prostate disease, it is generally a good idea to begin discussing prostate health with your GP around the age of 50. If you have any concerns – at any age – seek assessment and medical advice straight away.
Given the location of the prostate gland in the pelvis, signs and symptoms of prostate disease can be quite varied. Usually men experience a change or difficulty in urinating, pelvic pain or even pain in the area around intimacy. Pain can also present in the lower back, upper thighs and hips.
More commonly, symptoms include pain or having to strain harder when urinating, increased frequency and sensation around urination, a poorer stream or finding blood in urine or semen.
Detection and diagnosis
Unfortunately, checking for prostate cancer is not an exact science. Diagnosis is not as straight forward as simply asking your doctor for a blood test, with a direct answer of ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
During a prostate consultation your GP will take a thorough history around your potential prostate related symptoms. They may offer you initial testing consisting of a blood test measuring prostate specific antigen (PSA), and may discuss the merits of a physical examination.
All patients are entitled to an informed discussion about their individual risk of prostate disease, and the potential benefits and harms of testing for disease – allowing men make an informed decision about testing over time. Prostate consultation with your GP should also involve a discussion on when further specialist advice should be sought if problems arise.
Both men and women should take an active interest in the unique elements of their own health. For men, the prostate is a specific area to monitor and be proactive about as you approach 50 (or sooner if symptoms develop). A discussion with your local GP can help you to identify problems, stay on top of your prostate health, and assist you in making decisions around the need for further testing and diagnosis over time.
If you have questions, concerns or need advice on your own prostate health, book in to see one of our mens’ health specialist GPS.
This article was written by Dr Ben Grant.