DiscoverHealth

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Don’t ignore your prostate

Admit it, guys … you didn’t think about your prostate for the first 30 years of your life. But as you approach middle age, you’re beginning to hear about cancer and the importance of check-ups.

But your prostate does a lot of important work for a guy. It’s time to show it a little respect.

Here’s a few things you should know about your prostate.

What is your prostate?

It’s a walnut-shaped gland that mixes together the ingredients to make seminal fluid which, when mixed with sperm, becomes semen.

It also plays traffic cop between your bladder and urethra. During ejaculation, the prostate closes the opening between the two, stopping urine and allowing the flow of semen.  

What does it have to do with peeing?

As you get older, you’re going to have to pee more. That’s because the prostate gets larger as you age. An enlarged prostate affects virtually all men over 50.

The enlarged prostate squeezes the urethra and gets in the way of peeing normally.

But wait, that’s not all …

A growing prostate can also be a sign of cancer. Because of that, it’s important to talk with your doctor if you are experiencing urinary problems.

What is prostate cancer?

It’s one of the most common types of cancer in men, that’s what. If it’s detected early there’s a better chance of it being treated. Men should begin prostate cancer screenings at age 40

What are the risk factors?

Here are a few risk factors, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology:

  • Age – The risks for prostate cancer increase over the age of 50 (more than 80 percent of prostate cancers are diagnosed in men who are 65 and older).
  • Family history and genetics – Black men have a higher risk than white men, and Hispanic men have a lower risk than white men.
  • Lifestyle – Obesity, poor dietary habits and smoking can all contribute.

Can ejaculation help ward off prostate cancer?

Harvard thinks so! The university’s 2004 Health Professionals Follow-Up Study checked in with 29,342 men between the ages of 46 to 81. The men reported their average number of ejaculations per month between the ages of 20 to 29, 40 to 49 and in the year the study was conducted.

The study found that men who ejaculated 21 or more times a month enjoyed a 33 percent lower risk of prostate cancer.

A 2016 follow-up report to the study backed up the original findings. However, other reputable organizations (such as the Mayo Clinic) indicate that there’s no scientific evidence this is true.

Apparently, more research is needed.

What else can you do to reduce the risk of prostate cancer?

Stop smoking, exercise regularly and make a few changes to your diet – less fats and more fruits and vegetables. Honestly, doing those things are going to make your life a lot healthier all round.

How do you get screened for prostate cancer?

Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA, is a substance that can be found in the bloodstream. A PSA test detects these levels, which can be higher in men who have prostate cancer.

High PSA levels can also be caused by an enlarged prostate, a prostate infection, certain medications and certain medical procedures. Your doctor will read the test results and determine next steps.

There’s also the digital rectal examination. That is exactly what it sounds like it is.

Men should begin prostate cancer screenings between ages 40 and 45, depending on family history and more. Talk to your doctor about when to begin. 

What should you do?

  • In your 20s – Set standards for an active, healthy lifestyle. Exercise, eat a proper diet and limit your alcohol consumption.
  • In your 30s – Keep up those standards … and if you’ve come away from them, set them again now. Also, start building a relationship with your doctor. Annual check-ups and more. Don’t have a regular doctor (what we call a primary care physician)? Get one!
  • In your 40s and beyond – Start getting screened for prostate cancer, based on your doctor’s recommendation. Stay in shape or get back in shape … it’s never too late!

Find out about upcoming prostate cancer screenings. Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute routinely offers screenings for men ages 40 to 64 who are uninsured/underinsured or do not have a primary care physician. Call 864-560-1966 or visit SpartanburgRegional.com/events.