At a certain point in every man’s life, the word ‘prostate’ becomes a thing.
Before it wasn’t a thing, it was something that happened to old guys. But then all of a sudden it’s a thing. It’s the skeleton in the cupboard, the monster under the bed, waiting to get you. A lot of the fear stems from not knowing much about the prostate, so a brief guide.
It’s a gland, about the size of a golf ball, that sits below the bladder. It’s job is to add fluid to sperm and to help squeeze the semen (sperm + fluid) out on its way. At the same time, it squeezes the end of the bladder so urine doesn’t mix with the semen. That’s it, that’s all it does. It slowly grows bigger in all guys over time. This can eventually cause hassle with urination, leading to symptoms like hesitancy, dribbling or increased frequency. This is pretty common in older men and is treatable.
These same symptoms and an increase in prostate size can also indicate cancer. But some guys with prostate cancer will not have any symptoms.
So how can we check? The PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test is a good start, but far from perfect. It can be raised by a lot of things other than cancer (sex, vigourous exercise) and in some cases may be low even if there is cancer. So not ideal, but it is a good start, as a raised result may lead us to further testing or scanning to be on the safe side.
A physical exam does help. A lubricated finger is inserted into the anus, rotated and a brief exam of the outside of the prostate can tell us if it feels normal, irregular in size/shape or is sore to touch. It takes all of five seconds and it’s done.
We would also do an ultrasound scan of the prostate to get a sense of the overall sense of the gland relative to normal. An MRI scan of the prostate is very good these days at investigating for any irregularities.
Should you get checked? Prostate cancer is vanishingly rare in guys below 50 years old. But a family history of it does increase chances overall. So if you someone in your family has had it, or if you’ve any symptoms, definitely get checked now. Otherwise, once you’re over 40 I would add it to the list of things to keep an eye on. Give us a call to talk about it or if you have any questions.