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    Prostate Health: Here’s Everything You Need To Know

    When it comes to your prostate, many men, trans women, and people assigned male at birth, shy away from the topic. It can often be uncomfortable to think about. Some may not know where or what it is, and others may have only heard about it in stories about  older men having trouble urinating or needing a physical check by the doctor. In this article, we cover everything you need to know about your prostate health and what changes or screening you should expect as you age.

    What is your prostate?

    The prostate is a small gland that is about the size of a walnut, and people who have a prostate are men, trans women, and people who were assigned male at birth; trans men do not have a prostate. Your prostate gets larger as you age and is divided into two lobes, and has an outer layer called the capsule. Your prostate is below the bladder surrounding the first part of the urethra, and the urethra is what carries urine from the bladder. Behind the prostate is the rectum, and there are also lymph nodes, sometimes called glands, near the prostate. Your prostate contains muscle tissue and glandular tissue, which is a tissue that secretes certain substances such as semen, as that is the prostate’s primary function.

    As mentioned, the primary function of your prostate is to produce the fluid which mixes with sperm to make semen. This fluid is stored in a tubular gland, which is called the seminal vesicle, that sits directly behind the bladder. The hormone testosterone controls how your prostate works and is also responsible for things like your sex drive, getting an erection, and muscle development. Your prostate also produces a specific protein called prostate-specific antigen, often referred to as PSA. Doctors will typically use a blood test to check your PSA to determine problems in the prostate, which includes prostate cancer.

    Enlarged prostate

    As previously mentioned, it is common for your prostate to get bigger as you age. But when your prostate enlarges rapidly, this could be an indication of other health concerns. Around half of the people with a prostate over the age of 50, experience a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is the swelling or enlargement of your prostate. As a result of this condition, your prostate can go from the size of a walnut to the size of an apricot and, in some cases, the size of a lemon.

    In many people, an enlarged prostate doesn’t cause any symptoms or cause for concern. Still, others may find they are struggling with a range of symptoms, including an increased need to urinate, difficulty peeing, needing to go to the toilet suddenly, waking up at night to urinate, pain or burning during urination, and even pain during ejaculation. Even if you are younger than 50, it is vital that you inform your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Most of the time, an enlarged prostate doesn’t mean cancer has developed, but it is a worry, and you should always have it checked if you are concerned.

    In many cases, an enlarged prostate can be treated with simple lifestyle changes such as drinking less before bed. In others, medication is prescribed to help with the condition. Thirdly, surgery may be considered. But this is less common because there is a risk of side effects.

    Prostatitis

    Prostatitis is the inflammation of the prostate and is different for an enlarged prostate, although some of the symptoms are similar. In addition, prostatitis typically causes your prostate to become tender, swollen, or inflamed with symptoms like needing to urinate urgently, pain following ejaculation or urination, blood in your urine, lower back pain, pain in your rectum, urinary blockages, and a feeling of heaviness behind the scrotum.

    When it comes to prostatitis, there are three different types; chronic bacterial prostatitis, acute bacterial prostatitis, and chronic prostatitis, which is also known as chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Doctors use antibiotics to treat two types of bacterial prostatitis. When it comes to chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome, doctors are unsure of what causes this condition which is typically triggered by things like injury, nerve damage, or stress.

    Prostate cancer

    Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and typically affects those over the age of 65; although it can happen at a younger age, it is uncommon under 50. If you are worried about prostate cancer or have symptoms, speak to your doctor as soon as possible. They can arrange screenings to help determine the cause of your symptoms. There are different types of prostate cancer: early prostate cancer, locally-advanced prostate cancer, and advanced prostate cancer.

    When it comes to catching cancer, it is always best to detect it early. You can do so if you have regular screenings or tests such as prostate MRIs or biopsies. When you look into which screenings would suit you, it’s important to understand your options and whether you would be better off with a biopsy or MRI. The options available can be confusing, but if you want to learn more, you can read this article on prostate MRI vs. biopsy, where Ezra explains the difference.

    Symptoms

    During the early stages, prostate cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms. However, there are some common symptoms you can look out for in order to catch cancer early.

    • Suddenly or frequently needing to urinate
    • Finding it difficult to urinate
    • Feeling like you still need the toilet after going
    • Pain, burning, or discomfort when urinating
    • Blood in your urine or semen
    • Pain in your lower back, upper thighs, hips, or even your chest
    • Weakness or numbness in your legs or feet
    • Sudden and unexplained weight loss
    • Chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, and dizziness
    • Pale skin
    • A rapid heart rate

    Many of these symptoms are similar to other conditions, such as enlarged prostate or prostatitis. It is vital that you always speak to a medical professional when you first notice these symptoms or changes.

    Diagnoses

    In some people with prostate cancer, the cancer grows slow. This won’t have a significant impact on them during their lifetime. However, in others, it can spread and grow quickly, which is why early detection is crucial. Some of the treatments available for prostate cancer can cause side effects that affect your quality of life. Be sure to discuss all your options for testing and treatment. Chat with your doctors but with your loved ones too. Then everyone will understand the next steps. Some of the treatments may include watchful waiting, which, as the name suggests, is when you wait to see what the cancer does over time, whereas other treatments involve radiation, surgery, or taking medications.

    Staying Healthy

    Staying healthy and practicing a lifestyle with your well-being in mind is the ideal way to keep your body in the best condition and protect it against cancer. However, healthy people can also develop cancer unexpectedly. That means even when you are fit and healthy, remain alert to changes in your body or early warning signs. That way you can speak to your doctor as soon as possible.

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