What is the Prostate?
The prostate is a doughnut-shaped gland of the male reproductive system that surrounds the neck of the bladder and the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body via the penis). It produces fluid to nourish sperm and needs the hormone testosterone, produced by the testes, for normal function.
Apart from the risk of developing cancer, the prostate can cause difficulties due to enlargement. The medical term for enlargement of the prostate is BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia). Bacterial infection (prostatitis) of the prostate may also occur.
Prostate cancer is rare before the age of 50. In about two thirds of cases, prostate cancer is caused by latent or slow growing tumours and will not present clinically during the patient’s lifetime.
As you age, your prostate tends to grow, and like a doughnut closing its hole, this growth can pinch the urine tube, making urination difficult or painful.
This prostate enlargement is refered to as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, or BPH. While they know that prostate growth depends on the presence of testosterone, scientists aren’t sure why the prostate enlarges as men age.
The cause of prostate cancer is not known. A small percentage – 5-10 percent – is hereditary. These cancers run in families and are caused by mutations in one of the genes. Men who have first-degree relatives (father or brother) presenting with prostate cancer under the age of 65 years have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer compared to the general population. There is also a link between women with familial breast cancer and the development of prostate cancer in male family members.
Prostate cancer may cause prostate enlargement, and its associated symptoms. It is often through the discomforting symptoms of prostate enlargement that prostate cancer is detected.
Initially, the cancer will be localised to the prostate, but later the cancer may spread to surrounding tissues and to other parts of the body (metastases), particularly to bones such as the lower back.
Half of men over age 50 have symptoms related to an enlarged prostate, including the following…
• Weak Urine Stream
• Needing to urinate more often
• Needing to get up in the middle of the night to urinate
• Difficulty in starting urination (needing to strain in the beginning, especially in the morning)
• Not being able to empty the bladder completely
• Difficulty in stopping urination
• Dribbling after urination.
If your symptoms are mild, there’s a good chance they’ll go away on their own, If they don’t…
Cut out caffeine and alcohol. Both cause muscles in your bladder to tighten, making it even more difficult to urinate. Alcohol and caffeine are also diuretics, which means they increase the amount of urine that builds up in your bladder.
Men are notorious especially when it comes to “sensitive” topics like the prostate. So when over-the-counter herbal products claim to “promote prostate health”, many men will listen. In 1999, Americans spent $140 million on saw palmetto, an herb that, among other things, has the reputation of easing the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate (also known as benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH). Thousands of men have also sought out herbal remedies for prostate cancer.
This herb, derived from the berry of the American dwarf palm tree, has been used to treat prostate problems since the 1800s. Today, saw palmetto is especially popular among men who experience the weak urine flow and frequent urination symptomatic of an enlarged prostate. According to a recent survey in Consumer Reports, more than half of all men who tried the remedy said it eased their symptoms “a lot” or “somewhat.”