Prostate health can often be overlooked. Up to one in three men will have symptoms related to their prostate gland at some point in their lives.
Because the prostate surrounds the urethra, it’s likely to affect the way you pass urine if you have a prostate problem. In men, the most common cause of these symptoms is an enlarged prostate, which can obstruct the flow of urine. Other causes of prostate problems include prostatitis and prostate cancer.
An enlarged prostate is caused by an increase in the number of cells in the prostate gland. Symptoms can include a weak flow of urine, a more frequent or urgent need to urinate and feeling that the bladder hasn’t emptied completely. Having an enlarged prostate doesn’t mean you have cancer and it doesn’t mean you’re at greater risk of prostate cancer.
For some men, an enlarged prostate may only cause mild symptoms that doesn’t affect their quality of life. However, some men may need to take medication to help control their symptoms. Prostatitis is an infection of the prostate gland. There are different types of prostatitis, which can cause a variety of different symptoms, including:
- Pain and discomfort in the genital area;
- An urgent or frequent need to pass urine.
Prostatitis can be treated in different ways depending on the type, including antibiotics or alpha-blockers that help relax the muscle fibres around the prostate gland.
Prostate cancer mainly affects men over 65 and whilst it can affect younger men, this is uncommon. Symptoms may include difficulties urinating, lower back pain and blood in the urine. Some prostate cancers grow slowly and might not need treatment, but always best if caught early.
Others grow more quickly and may need treatment. Treatments will depend on whether the cancer has spread, the risk of side effects and a patient’s own personal views. There has been some research into how prostate problems can be prevented. Researchers are investigating how lifestyle factors such as diet, can affect the risk of getting prostate cancer.
Prostate Cancer, Prostatitis and our diet
Some studies suggest that making changes to diet can reduce the risk of developing the condition and maintaining a healthy prostate, while others don’t. One study found that drinking green tea and eating a diet rich in vegetables such as tomatoes and soy could lower the risk. However, this evidence is limited. More research is needed to be certain of how effective eating and drinking certain food and drink may be in preventing prostate cancer.
Eating a healthy diet and taking regular exercise may help and stopping smoking. Research has also found a possible link between cycling and prostate cancer and a recent study found that men who cycle more than nine hours a week are more likely to develop the disease.
If you think you have any symptoms of prostate problems, contact your doctor. If your doctor thinks your symptoms need investigating, he or she may advise some tests, which can include a physical examination, urine tests or flow rate tests to check for any infection and the speed at which you pass urine, an ultrasound examination to check if your bladder is emptying completely and a PSA test.
This is a blood test that looks at the level of PSA in the blood. Having a raised PSA might be a sign of prostate cancer, but this is not always the case. Getting a prostate problem checked out as soon as you think you have a problem can help give peace of mind and will ensure early treatment where necessary.