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Health Information Prostate Problems: What You Should Know

The prostate is an essential part of a man's urinary and reproductive systems. And, especially as men age, it is not uncommon to have prostate problems. Therefore, there's no good reason to suffer quietly; if you are experiencing prostate issues, see your doctor and find out what can be done. Also, don't forget to get your regular screenings for prostate cancer, even if you aren't experiencing symptoms.

A relatively common type of prostate problem is prostatitis, which is an inflammation of the prostate gland. "About half of men will suffer from prostatitis at some point in their lives," says Christopher L. Coogan, MD, associate professor of urology at Rush.

Common symptoms of prostatitis are:

  • Pain during urination
  • Urgency to void the bladder
  • Pain in the pelvic area
  • Feeling of incomplete emptying of the bladder

When prostatitis is caused by bacteria, these symptoms tend to be more severe and are usually accompanied by a fever.

Consult with your doctor if you suspect you have prostatitis. The doctor will determine the cause of the inflammation. If it's caused by bacteria, antibiotics will probably help clear up the infection. If it's not caused by bacteria, treatment may include anti-inflammatory medication, hot baths and some dietary restrictions, like avoiding caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods.

Enlarged Prostate

While prostatitis is the most common prostate problem for men under the age of 50, for men over 50 it's an enlarged prostate. "In fact, the biggest risk factor for enlarged prostate is age," says Coogan. "As a man ages the cumulative effects of testosterone begin to cause the prostate to enlarge."

Some common symptoms of an enlarged prostate include:

  • More frequent urination, even waking during the night to void
  • Starting and stopping of the stream
  • Incomplete voiding of the bladder

"It's important to keep in mind that there are other factors besides the prostate that may cause a man to have urinary problems," says Coogan.

Some common factors include:

  • Urinary infection
  • Narrowing of the urethra
  • Some neurological disorders

Consult with your physician or a urologist to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms.

"The good news is there are many viable options for treating urinary and prostate problems," says Coogan. "There's no need to suffer. The sooner you come in for a diagnosis, the sooner we can begin to address your problems."

Screening for Prostate Cancer
Even if you don't experience symptoms of prostate problems, it's important to have regular physical exams and screenings for prostate cancer. Besides the physical exam of the prostate through a digital rectal exam, there's also a blood test to check the levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood.

"Most prostate cancers are silent," says Kalyan C. Latchamsetty, MD, a urologist at Rush and assistant professor and Rush University. "They usually don't have symptoms until they're more advanced. That's why screening is so important."

Men with a family history of prostate cancer should start being screened at 40 years old. African-American men are also at higher risk and should begin being screened at 40. Caucasian men should begin screening at age 50.

The two main screening techniques are a physical exam of the prostate and the PSA test. The physical exam looks for enlargement of the prostate and the presence of nodules. The blood test is looking for the blood levels of a certain protein produced by the prostate.

It's normal for men to have low levels of PSA in the blood. Certain conditions in the prostate, including prostatitis or an enlarged prostate, can cause these levels to rise. A rise in PSA can also indicate the presence of cancerous cells.

That's why, depending on your age, the PSA levels and the rate of change of these levels, your doctor may order a biopsy of some of the prostate tissue. If the biopsy is negative, your physician will most likely follow your PSA levels. However, if the biopsy is positive for prostate cancer, you should consult a physician that is familiar with the different options and techniques of treating prostate cancer. The treatment options and decisions will vary depending on someone's age, health status, the pathology of the biopsy (Gleason score), PSA levels and results of digital rectal exam.

"We work with the patient and try to decide which treatment works best for them," Latchamsetty says. "For example, a younger person might want surgery over radiation. Lifestyle issues can also be a factor in making a treatment decision; you may want to get back to work as quickly as possible, so you may choose laparoscopic surgery over regular surgery.

"The important thing is to get regular screenings," says Latchamsetty. "We want to catch the cancer at the earliest possible stage."

  • Read " High Definition in the Operating Room" for more information about the latest technique for performing prostate surgery.
  • Drs. Coogan and Latchamsetty will be speaking about prostate health on Tuesday, October 16, beginning at 6:00 p.m. in Room 994 of the Armour Academic Center on the Rush campus in Chicago.
  • Phone 888 352-RUSH (888 352-7874) for more information or to register. Or visit the Upcoming Events page. You can also use the registration request form to register online.

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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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