September was Prostate Awareness Month with good reason; one in every eight British males will develop prostate cancer, making it the most common male cancer in the UK.
The prostate, misunderstood and overlooked
As parts of the body go the prostate has traditionally had a pretty hard time of it in terms of general awareness and perception.
Often the punchline to a joke about age, erectile dysfunction, or worse… proctologists, everyone knows that men have one but no-one quite knows why or even cares until it goes wrong.
In truth there’s not much reason for anyone under 50 to be too concerned about it, so long as everything is functioning normally it would be very rare indeed for prostate cancer or any other issues to develop in a younger man.
From age 50 onwards, however, the risk of prostate problems increases. In fact most prostate cancer diagnoses are made for men aged between 70 and 74.
What does it do?
The prostate gland produces the seminal fluid into which sperm from the testes are mixed to make semen.
It is the prostate gland that involuntarily contracts during orgasm, cutting off the bladder by closing that part of the urethra and forcing the semen along the penis to cause ejaculation.
It is a vital part of the male reproductive system and essential to a healthy sex life.
What can go wrong?
As men get older, the prostate grows quite large (described in one medical journal as moving from the size of a walnut to the size of a plum…I hope that was as helpful to you as it was to me).
This growth is quite normal, but for about a third of men over 75 this can lead to the prostate pressing on the urethra and causing urinary problems, this is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and is easily treated
Unfortunately, the same symptoms may indicate an infection or, in the worst case, cancer.
The early warning signs
A constant need to urinate, especially through the night, waking you and making you visit the lavatory two or three times.
A drastically reduced flow of urine, in some cases to little more than a trickle.
The constant feeling of having a full bladder, but finding it not always possible to urinate.
Pain during urination or sex.
Don’t wait and hope that it will sort itself out
If you are a male over 50 and experience any of these symptoms you should visit your GP immediately for a check-up.
In all likelihood the cause will not be cancer, but if it is and can be identified early, the survival rate is many times higher.
In a recent survey by Cancer Research UK, 70% of prostate cancer patients declared that they knew nothing about the prostate before their illness struck.
Don’t be one of them.
Prostate Awareness Week may have passed you by, that doesn’t mean you can’t be more aware today.
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