By the time a man reaches the age of 60, he will have developed one of the symptoms of enlarged prostate, commonly known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). By the time that same man reaches 85, he will be joined by approximately 90% of his peers who will have also developed the condition, with approximately 33% requiring treatment.
Surrounding the urethra, the prostate is defined as the male reproductive gland that produces the fluid that carries the sperm after ejaculation. An enlarged prostate is one that has gotten bigger, pressing on the urethra, thus causing urination and bladder problems. However, this condition does not necessarily correlate to the development of prostate cancer although they share similar symptoms and the cancer can go undetected.
Screening for prostate cancer is key to detecting it in its early stages
It involves looking for signs of the disease in people who have no symptoms, thus looking for early-stage disease at a point when treatment may be more effective. The main screening tools for prostate cancer are the digital rectal examination (DRE) and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. These tests cannot tell if you have cancer. The DRE or digital (finger) rectal examination is a quick exam whereby a doctor inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into the patient’s rectum. The doctor can feel the back portion of the prostate for size and any irregularities. The antigen in PSA is a substance that is produced by cells from the prostate gland and released into the blood. During the PSA test, a small amount of blood is drawn from the arm and the doctor will check to see if the PSA level is normal or compare the results of one PSA test with another. The higher the PSA level in the blood, the more likely a prostate problem is present.
The American Cancer Society and the American Urological Association urge that men get screened when they reach the age of 50, 40 to 45 years of age for men who are considered high risk, such as African American men and men who have a familial history prostate cancer.
The prostate tube surrounds the urethra which is the tube that carries the urine out of the body. When the prostate becomes enlarged, it blocks the tube, thereby causing the flow of urine to be disrupted. Other symptoms of BPH include: (1) Slowness or dribbling of your urinary stream; (2) trouble urinating; (3) increase in frequency of urination; (4) urgency or sudden need to urinate; (5) nighttime urination.
To determine the cause of the above-named symptoms, other tests include a urinalysis, the seven-question BPH Symptom Score Index survey, the urine flow study and a test that detects how much urine remains in the bladder following urination.
Although no test is completely accurate, the PSA test detects the presence of small cancers, especially those toward the front or sides of the prostate gland, or deep within it. The DRE can be an additional test for men who have normal PSA levels.
Testing is an individual choice and should be made after discussion with your family health care provider. Knowing the risk factors and your susceptibility to those risk factors will aid in determining whether you should be tested. When found early, treatments can be very effective and can prevent the development of prostate cancer.
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