A common health problem is that it grows larger as you get older, which can lead to a few health concerns. It is important to remember that having prostate problems does not always mean you have cancer.
Routine check ups are a great way to monitor your health and catch problems before they get too serious. . If you think there is something wrong with your prostate, see your doctor right away.
What Are the Most Common Prostate Problems?
Men are at risk for prostate problems because they all have a prostate. It is a tiny little gland that seems to cause a whole lot of problems. Use this overview of prostate problems to help assess your risk.
An enlarged prostate, also known as Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is the growth of the prostate gland to an unhealthy size. As a man ages his chances of having BPH increase.
- Age 31-40: one in 12
- Age 51-60: about one in two
- Overage 80: more than eight in 10
BPH is a common condition in older men and doesn’t lead to prostate cancer. In fact, half of the men with BPH don’t even require treatment.
Prostate Cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, other than skin cancer. About one man in six will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Survival rates for this type of cancer are quite good. It is a slow growing cancer, so get your check ups because early detection is important.
Like many health conditions, age puts you at a greater risk. In fact about 66% of patients with prostate cancer are over the age of 65. The exact cause of prostate cancer is not known, however there are a number of risk factors that can make it more likely.
- Family medical history - when a close relative like a brother or father has contracted this disease
- African-American men have much higher rates of prostate cancer than the general population and the cancer is usually at a more advanced stage when it is discovered. For this reason early screening is used for African American men that have a family history of prostate cancer.
SYMPTOMS & TREATMENT OPTIONS
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
Often called BPH, benign prostatic hyperplasia is a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. It is very common, but rarely causes symptoms before age 40. According to the American Urological Association, about half of men between ages 51 and 60 and up to 90% of men older than age 80 have BPH.
Symptoms of BPH include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- A weak urine stream
- Feeling the bladder is not empty after voiding the bladder.
If you are diagnosed , but your symptoms are not too bad the doctor may choose to simply monitor your situation. Prescription medications can be used for symptom relief and to reduce inflammation and shrink the prostate gland if the situation requires treatment. Serious cases may call for more invasive treatments like surgery or laser surgery.
Prostatitis is an inflammation or infection of the prostate caused by bacteria. Men of all ages can get prostatitis. In fact it occurs more often in young to middle aged men, and doesn’t make a difference whether your prostate is enlarged or not. Only 5% to 10% of men develop prostatitis in their lifetime. Symptoms
- Frequent urination (often interrupting sleep)
- Difficulty passing urine
- Painful urination
- Chills and fever
A diagnosis from your doctor is a good first step. If the problem keeps coming back it is best to keep your doctor up to date on your condition.
- Acute bacterial prostatitis most often caused by a bacterial infection. It can cause a high fever with aches and pains .Urination may be painful or there may be blood in the Antibiotics are the most common treatment.
- Chronic bacterial prostatitis is an infection that comes back again and again. This is not a common issue and it can be difficult to address. Sometimes taking antibiotics for a long time may work.
- Chronic prostatitis, also called Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS), is a common prostate problem. Pain in the lower back, groin area, or at the tip of the penis are usual symptoms. Men with this problem sometimes have painful ejaculation. They may feel the need to urinate frequently, but pass only a small amount of urine. Treating this condition may require a combination of medicines, surgery, and lifestyle changes.
Note: when taking antibiotics remember to include probiotics in your diet to replenish the good bacteria in your body that also is killed off by antibiotics.
Initially prostate cancer is asymptomatic, but as the disease progresses, symptoms will start to appear.
Symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- Inability to empty the bladder
- painful urination
- burning sensation
- A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Difficulty starting urination
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine (dribbling)
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
- Pain or stiffness in the back, hips, or thighs
Not all prostate cancers are life-threatening, and some types of treatments can cause serious side effects. Doctors often advise “watchful waiting” as they monitor the situation until the signs and symptoms warrant further treatment.
Some doctors believe that men under the age of 75 years should get yearly PSA tests. Others disagree because high PSA levels can sometimes be caused by infections, BPH, or small cancers that may not grow or spread.
Research is being to done to find ways to improve the PSA test so that it detects only those types of cancers that require treatment.
Getting a Diagnosis
After taking note of the symptoms you are experiencing the doctor will likely ask about previous health issues and also information about your family’s medical history. He or she will perform a physical exam. During the exam, your doctor will put a gloved finger into your rectum to feel your prostate for hard or lumpy areas. This will help the doctor determine if your symptoms could be caused by cancer.
A blood test to check the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level may be ordered by your doctor. Because PSA levels can also be high in men with an enlarged prostate gland you may need an ultrasound exam, to get images of the prostate to be certain of the diagnosis.
If tests show that you might have cancer, your doctor will want to confirm this with a biopsy. He or she will take out tiny pieces of the prostate to look for cancer cells.
Treatment Options for prostate cancer
Talk to your doctor about possible treatment options. Factors like the cancer being in part of, or all of the prostate, or the cancer spreading to other parts of the body will impact your doctor’s recommendations . Age and overall health are also determining factors. You may want to ask another doctor for a second opinion to ensure the best treatment choice.
When the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body the doctor may suggest careful monitoring of the situation, often called “watchful waiting”. Basically waiting for changes that signal a need for further treatment.
Surgery to remove the prostate and some surrounding tissue is a common option. Surgery always carries some risk so be sure to ask the doctor about any possible problems that might result from this surgery.
Radiation can be used to shrink the tumor by killing cancer cells. An x-ray machine or radioactive seeds placed in the body near the tumor deliver the treatment to the affected area. Radiation has side effects. Talk to your doctor to make sure this is the right choice for you.
Blocking testosterone production with hormone therapy is common when the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, and/or the doctors believe the cancer will return.
PREVENTING PROSTATE PROBLEMS
Some prostate problems, particularly BPH, are just a part of the aging process for many men. But there are things that you can do to improve prostate health.
Adopt a diet low in saturated fat with lots of fruits and vegetables. The health benefits of this lifestyle change include lowering your risk of developing BPH. Research is ongoing to identify who might benefit from early treatment to prevent BPH.
The American Cancer Society recommends eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, the same advice that is given to prevent BPH. As the cause of prostate cancer is not known we can’t prevent it, so living a healthy lifestyle, and strengthening your body’s immunity are recommended.
No herbal supplements have been proven to prevent prostate cancer. Studies of selenium, a mineral, have had mixed results, but the majority of the evidence shows no real benefit. Trials for drugs to prevent prostate cancer are also ongoing.
No activity or drug is known to prevent prostatitis. Experts recommend good hygiene, including keeping the penis clean. Most men will never develop prostatitis.
6 NATURAL OPTIONS FOR AN ENLARGED PROSTATE
A mixture of extracts from different plants that contain cholesterol like substances called sitosterols or phytosterols, which are plant based fats, have been proven to help with an enlarged prostate . Several studies have suggested that beta-sitosterol can relieve urinary symptoms of BPH, including the strength of urine flow. Scientists think it’s these fatty substances, which are also found in saw palmetto — that are doing the work.
Doctors have found no major side effects with the use of beta-sitosterol, but no long term studies have been performed at this point.
Saw palmetto has been used for centuries as an alternative remedy used to help relieve symptoms of urinary infection and inflammation , including those problems caused by an enlarged prostate. This herbal remedy comes from the fruit of a type of palm tree. The National Institute of Health (NIH) says some, small-scale studies have suggested that saw palmetto might be effective for relieving BPH symptoms. Other larger studies were not able to replicate these results, more research is needed to confirm the anti-inflammatory and hormone blocking properties of saw palmetto.
Saw palmetto is safe to use for prostate concerns, but be aware it may cause upset stomachs and headaches.
This traditional medicine has been used to treat urinary problems since ancient times. Treating the symptoms of BPH is something it is commonly used for, especially in Europe. Pygeum comes from the bark of the African plum tree.
Several small studies have indicated that this supplement can help with voiding the bladder and improving urine flow, (see the Canadian Journal of Urology) . However, the studies reviewed were inconsistent. Further studies would provide additional evidence of how effective this treatment actually is.
Pygeum does appear safe to use, but it can cause an upset stomach and headache in some people who take it.
If you have ever encountered this plant you will likely remember the sharp stinging pain you felt when leaves touched your skin. But this common European plant may also have some benefits when used medicinally.
Nettle root is believed to improve some BPH symptoms and is frequently used in Europe to provide symptom relief for prostate discomfort. Additional studies could provide more evidence about the benefits of stinging nettle.
Ryegrass Pollen Extract
Rye, timothy and corn are used to create Ryegrass pollen extract which can be used to improve night time symptoms like frequent nighttime urination. A review of studies published in BJU International found that in a six month study, men who were taking rye grass pollen extract reported an improvement in their symptoms compared to those in the placebo group. The study didn’t look at how well the supplement worked compared to prescription medications.
Nettle can be used in combination with other natural BPH treatments, such as Pygeum or saw palmetto. Side effects from nettle are usually mild, including upset stomach and skin rash.
Foods to treat BPH
Eating a healthy diet contributes to your overall health, but the role of diet in the prevention of BPH and in treating its symptoms continues to be explored to gather additional information.
Recently in China there was a study that looked at the effect of diet on symptoms of BPH. After 4 years of study it was determined that a diet containing lots of dark leafy vegetables, tomatoes and fruits decreased the symptoms of BPH and didn’t aggravate it all. No single nutrient outperformed all others, rather it is believed that the combination of healthy foods and lifestyle changes provided the benefit.
A Word of Warning...
It’s important to remember that just because a supplement is labeled “natural” doesn’t always mean it’s safe, healthy, or effective. Remember that the FDA doesn’t regulate herbal remedies like it does prescription and over-the-counter drugs. That means you can’t be sure that what’s listed on the label is inside the bottle.
Herbal remedies can also cause side effects and interact with other medications you take. Check with your doctor before trying any natural supplement.
The Bottom line
Lifestyle changes, medication, supplements, and surgery are all treatment options for the prostate symptoms that are affecting your quality of life.
Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that helps you manage your symptoms and live a healthy life. That’s why it’s important to discuss your symptoms of prostate diseases with your doctor, so the best possible treatment decisions can be made.