The prostate is a walnut-shaped male genital gland that many people may not know or care enough. However, the importance of good prostate health cannot be understated as it is essential for fertility, with ailments affecting up to fifty percent of all men aged above 50 years old.
Sitting below the bladder and near the base of the penis, the prostate gland plays an important role in fertility. It secretes nutrient-rich fluids that protect and nourish the sperms (as semen), and contracts to push the semen out during ejaculation.
In its proximity is also a bundle of nerves and blood vessels that are crucial to the erectile function, which all the more, accentuates the importance of keeping the prostate gland healthy.
For inevitable reason, the prostate continues to grow bigger as the man gets older. The condition known as Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH) causes symptoms in half of all men above 50 years, with up to ten percent of them requiring medical or surgical intervention. BPH is a non-cancerous swelling of the prostate gland which causes the urethra to be squeezed and narrowed, causing the flow of urine to be slower and less forceful. Hence, navigating around during travel with a series of restroom stops is more likely to happen for older men.
If left untreated, BPH can progress and lead to other medical conditions. For instance, if the bladder is not emptied, men risk contracting urinary tract infections (UTI). Other serious problems that may develop over time include bladder stones or blood in the urine. In worst cases, BPH can cause the prostate to become so enlarged that it blocks the urethra, causing the emptying of bladder to become impossible. In rare cases, untreated BPH may lead to bladder or kidney damage.
Another common prostate condition is Prostate Cancer, where malignant cancer cells form an abnormal growth of tissue in the prostate. According to urologist Dr Sam Peh, early stage prostate cancer often does not present any symptoms and the only way to detect them is through prostate screening. The screening is a blood test to measure the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. PSA is a protein produced by both cancerous and non-cancerous tissue in the prostate. Men who are aged above 50 years old and have a family history of prostate cancer are particularly at risk of contracting this disease.
BPH, however, does not develop into prostate cancer, but it is possible that a patient may be suffering from both conditions at the same time.
“It is a common misperception that issues such as incontinence (urine leakage), weak urine stream, or frequent visits to the toilet are part and parcel of ageing, but these are usually symptoms of a possible prostate condition," Dr Peh shared.
"Other warning signs may include interrupted urine flow, inability to completely empty the bladder, blood in urine or semen, or erectile dysfunction. Patients who have experienced any of the above symptoms should consult a urologist immediately for further assessment and treatment," he added.
While both BPH and prostate cancer are treatable, it is advisable to include PSA screening during your routine health screening checks if you are above 50 years old. Attend to it before it bothers your daily life. Early detection and treatment increases your chances of recovery and helps to preserve your prostate function. Stay in the pink of health with a balanced diet, exercise and take great care of your body around it.