The prostate is an organ of the male reproductive system, more specifically a gland located right under the bladder. The function of the prostate is to secrete a fluid, called prostatic fluid, that contributes to the volume of semen.
Lifestyle, eating and drinking habits and age can all contribute to different medical conditions that affect the prostate. According to the NHS, more than one in three men over the age of fifty will have prostate enlargement problems. The risk becomes even higher over the age of 65.
While prostate cancer is among the most common types of cancer, it is not the only condition. Prostate enlargement is extremely common with age. And while it is not yet clear why the prostate tends to enlarge as one gets older, we do no it doesn’t increase the risk of developing cancer.
There are three main prostate medical conditions:
- Prostate inflammation
- Prostate enlargement
- Prostate cancer
Also known as prostatitis, it consists of the inflammation (swelling) of the prostate, often due to a bacterial infection. This prostate condition can occur in men of all ages, however, it is more common between the age of 30 and 50.
Some of the symptoms of prostatitis include pain in the pelvis or genitals, difficulty or pain when urinating or when ejaculating and a frequent need to urinate.
Prostatitis can usually be easily cured with medication and symptoms disappear within a few weeks or sometimes months.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH is the enlargement of the prostate gland not related to infection or cancer. This is the most common medical condition of the prostate.
The risk of having an enlarged prostate, also called prostatomegaly, becomes higher with older age. The exact causes of BPH are still unclear but risk factors include family history, obesity, type two diabetes, or lifestyle choices such as sedentary behavior.
Some of the most common symptoms of BPH are difficulty in starting to urinate, a weak flow of urine, and the need to pee frequently or suddenly, often during the night. As opposed to prostatitis, pain is usually not among the symptoms.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia can be treated with medication although sometimes minimally invasive surgery is necessary. Lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms.
It is important to see a doctor when symptoms appear as an untreated BPH can increase the risk of a bladder or kidney infection. An exam is also useful in ruling out prostatic cancer.
Although prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men, it has one of the highest survival rates and a slow progression.
Because the symptoms of prostate cancer are the same as the BPH ones, it is extremely important to have a medical exam. This usually consists of a digital rectal examination and a blood test to measure the PSA levels (prostate-specific antigen). Sometimes a biopsy is also needed.
The treatment of prostatic cancer depends on the progression of the disease. In low-risk cases, the option may be active surveillance, meaning a careful observation of the tumor over time. Other times surgical or non-surgical treatment is needed.
If you notice any of the mentioned symptoms, contact your GP to get a medical exam done.