It is NOT normal for men to experience:
Difficulty starting to urinate
Weak or interrupted urine flow
Problems completely emptying your bladder
If you or a loved one is experiencing such symptoms, you should discuss the symptoms with your health care practitioner without delay.
There are a number of conditions that can cause these and the other symptoms listed below. The most common is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), a relatively easy to treat, non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate. The other more problematic cause can be prostate cancer. The only way to know what’s causing these symptoms is to consult your doctor.
Prostate cancer is second only to skin cancer as the most common form of cancer in men; 1 in every 7 men now will develop prostate cancer during their life. Like all forms of cancer, early detection and intervention is key! Early detection relies on YOU recognizing what the symptoms are and speaking to your doctor about them.
- Difficulty starting to urinate
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- Problems emptying the bladder completely
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Pain or burning during urination
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that does not go away
- Painful ejaculation
Certain demographic characteristics put some men at greater risk for the development of prostate cancer.
- Age – prostate cancer is rare in men under 40 and more common after age 50.
- Race – African Americans are at higher risk for prostate cancer and die from the disease at twice the rate as Caucasian men.
- Family history – prostate cancer in your father or close family member suggests increased risk.
- High fat diet – men who consume diets high in fat are at greater risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Sedentary life style – the lack of exercise is a risk factor for prostate cancer
BPH / Prostate Cancer Testing
In order to determine the cause of prostate-related symptoms, it will likely be necessary for your doctor to perform one or more of the following tests.
PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) This is a simple blood test that looks for the presence of certain markers in your blood which may be elevated if cancer is present. There’s some controversy as to how often one should get this test so speak with your primary health practitioner to see when it’s appropriate.
DRE (Digital Rectal Examination) The infamous rubber glove test. Basically, the doctor presses against the backside of the prostate to check for lumps or enlargement. It is painless and takes only a few seconds.
If mass is found within the prostate, further tests would be necessary to determine if cancer is present.
Biopsy – involves using a sterile needle to extract cells from the prostate that are then examined under the microscope. This is a definitive test for prostate cancer and is typically performed if other tests are abnormal.
So, What If? What if I’m told I have BPH or Prostate Cancer?
BPH is often successfully treated by medication alone. Men often find great and rapid relief from their symptoms after just a couple days on medication. If the prostate is very large, some form of surgery may be required to fix the problem.
Should you be diagnosed with prostate cancer, keep in mind that many forms of prostrate cancer are slow growing; some forms of prostate cancer do not require any treatment at all. Your physician may instead closely follow the progression of the growth and intervene only if necessary. When medical treatment is required, it can range from surgical removal of the prostrate to radiation and chemotherapy. Modern surgical techniques, some using robot assisted devices, significantly reduce the risk of long-term side effects, allowing for normal urinary and sexual functioning. The particular treatment a physician recommends is based upon many factors.
The Bottom Line
Early detection and intervention, whether it’s BPH or prostate cancer, is important. Some forms of prostate cancer can reduce life expectancy if left untreated. If you have any of the symptoms listed, or have NO symptoms but have never had a PSA and DRE, you need to discuss this with your health care practitioner THIS YEAR.
-by Dr Michael Craw