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Prostate Problems - Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Self Care pharmacist are urging all men aged 50 or more to have an annual prostate checkup.

"A prostate checkup by a doctor is a simple, painless procedure that can at least improve a man's life and sometimes saves one. Most prostate problems are benign, don't lead to cancer and can be successfully treated," say Self Care pharmacists. "But it's that natural fear of finding cancer, especially near one's private parts, that has men staying away from their doctors in droves."

Cancer of the prostate is New Zealand's second most common cause of cancer death in men, affecting 1 in 10 males. But it's not the most common prostate problem.

"All men after the age of puberty have an enlarged prostate, and when they reach 50 years of age this can be a problem, as the prostate continues to grow," say the pharmacists. "The enlarged prostate is called BPH - benign prostatic hyperplasia. The older a man is the more likely he is to develop BPH."

The prostate is a small gland found only in men that produces a fluid which protects and enriches sperm. It is situated just under the bladder, is about the size of a walnut and has a hole through the middle for the urethra - the tube urine and sperm pass through.

Problems occur with the prostate when it gets bigger, squeezes the urethra and obstructs urine flow - rather like pinching a straw between the thumb and forefinger. It often happens quite slowly over a number of years, and usually shows up after a man reaches 50.

The growth is believed to be due to hormonal changes in the prostate and half of all 60 year olds will have some degree of BPH. Eighty per cent of 80 year olds will have some symptoms.

"Men will notice subtle changes in their urinating routine. They may have difficulty starting to pee or they will stop and start again. Some men feel they have finished only to have more urine dribble out - which is why BPH is often characterised as a dripping waterworks," say Self Care pharmacists.

"Other signs that are symptomatic of prostate problems include smaller, weaker urine flows, taking longer to pee than before, getting up more often in the night to pee and having a feeling that they've not quite emptied the bladder. Some men have sudden strong urges to urinate," they add.

It is important not to confuse BPH with other prostate problems - notably prostatitis and cancer. Prostatitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection of the prostate gland causing swelling and pain, and is sometimes accompanied by fever, chills and lower back pain. More often that not it occurs in men aged 35-45 but it can occur at any age.

Prostate cancer can have the same signs and symptoms as BPH. The tell-tale difference is the lumpy feel - which a doctor can find - or it may be hard and stony. If cancer is found early it can be cured.

Treatment for prostate problems depends on exactly what condition you have.

"There are some new medicines available for treating prostate problems. Some work to change hormone levels - the main cause of prostate enlargement," the pharmacist say. "Other medicines are available to reduce the swelling or improve urine flow."

Some medicines need to be taken for several months before an effect is obvious and need to be used on a continuing, perhaps life-long basis, to prevent a recurrence of prostate problems.

"If symptoms are severe enough, an operation may be recommended," say the pharmacists.

"If you have any of the signs and symptoms listed above, you should see a doctor straight away," Self Care pharmacist say. "You should also see a doctor if there is blood in your urine, a burning, tingling feeling when urinating or any fever, chills or back pain."

All men over 50 should have a prostate check up every year, and maybe more often if there is a history of prostate cancer in their family.

"Men with a family history of prostate cancer should start their annual check ups at age 45," add the pharmacists.

If you would like to know more about prostate problems or medicines, contact your Self Care pharmacist and ask for the Prostate Problems fact card.

For further information please contact: Your Local Self Care Pharmacist


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