Prostate problems

Over 50% of men over the age of 50 have prostate problems. The prostate is a gland under the bladder that surrounds the urethra. Learn more about benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer, the two most common prostate problems.

What are prostate problems?

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located just under the bladder in men and that surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that runs from the bladder to the end of the penis. The main role of the prostate is to produce and store part of the fluid in semen . It also helps control urine flow.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)

BPH, also known as an “enlarged prostate ”, is when the prostate increases in size. In some cases, the prostate can even constrict the urethra and make urine flow more difficult.

Age is the main risk factor for BPH, as the prostate naturally gets larger after the age of 40. Over  50% of men over the age of 60 and over 80% of men over the age of 80 will get BPH. Family history, ethnic origin (black men in particular are at risk) and obesity are factors that can also play a role. 

As its name indicates, BPH is a benign problem, meaning that it isn't serious. It also doesn’t pose a risk for prostate cancer, even if the symptoms of the two diseases are very similar.

BPH symptoms

Since the prostate is located under the bladder, its enlargement affects urination . The symptoms of BPH aren't the same for all men. Here are a few that you may experience:

  • Difficulty initiating urination.
  • Decrease in strength of urine flow.
  • A change in urine frequency.
  • A change in urine quantity.
  • An urgent need to urinate.
  • A need to get up at night to urinate.
  • A feeling that the bladder is never completely empty.
  • Pain when urinating.
  • Drips at the end of urination.

You may experience one of these symptoms alone or a few at the same time, and they can be very mild or very inconvenient. In some cases, BPH can lead to complications such as urinary tract infections or kidney failure.

If you have symptoms, you need to consult a doctor to get a specific diagnosis and the appropriate treatment.

BPH treatment

Various treatments are available to relieve the disruptive symptoms that BPH can cause. Your doctor will talk to you about the best treatment choice for you: medication, a natural health product or, in rare cases, surgery. 

No medication can stop BPH from progressing. However, a number of prescription medications can relieve its symptoms. Drugs mainly help you maintain your quality of life, decrease symptoms, and slow the enlargement of the prostate.

Saw palmetto extract is a natural health product that has been the focus of the most scientific studies conducted on BPH treatment. However, there is little long-term data on its use.

 

Watch out! Some over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, especially cold and flu medications, can aggravate your symptoms. Take the time to ask your pharmacist for advice before buying OTC products.

 
In all Quebec pharmacies, the drug caution code indicates the precautions you need to take when buying OTC products. People with BPH must avoid products with the code “B.” Ask your pharmacist for more information about drug caution codes.

 

Good lifestyle choices can also help reduce BPH symptoms:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid substances that cause your body to produce urine, such as coffee, tea, herbal tea and alcohol.
  • Avoid drinking fluids in the evening or at least 2 hours before going to bed.
  • Urinate when you feel the urge, and avoid holding it in. 
  • Eat foods that contain a nutrient called lycopene (such as tomatoes and watermelon). 
  • Avoid spicy foods.
  • Get regular exercise (30 minutes at least 5 times a week).

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer for men and strikes about 1 man out of 8. The cause  of the disease is unknown, but we do know that the risk of developing this type of cancer is greater among black men and increases significantly with age, with men over the age of 65 being most at risk. This cancer is more common among men with a family history of prostate cancer. Men who live in North America and who eat a high-fat diet also seem to be more at risk of developing this type of cancer.

Prostate cancer symptoms

At the beginning of the disease, prostate cancer doesn’t have any symptoms. When the tumour grows, you may have urinary symptoms that are very similar to those of BPH. In some cases, the cancer can cause pain during ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, blood in the urine, or pain in the lower back, hips and thighs.

Prostate cancer treatment

Doctors treat prostate cancer by taking into account your age, general health condition, life expectancy, and how fast the disease is progressing. Since the majority of prostate cancers progress slowly, your doctor may not suggest any specific treatment, as medication or surgery could cause greater problems than the risks of not treating the cancer. However, your doctor will closely monitor how your disease is evolving.
 
For younger men who have cancer localized to the prostate only, the options are surgery, cryotherapy (therapy with cold) or radiation therapy. If the cancer has spread, you will need hormonal therapy  or chemotherapy.

Can prostate cancer be prevented?

Once you turn 50, you need to talk to your doctor about your individual risk of prostate cancer and the advantages and disadvantages of early detection.

Two tests can detect prostate cancer early:

  • A digital rectal examination, which is a simple physical exam that the physician can do during your annual routine check-up.
  • If your doctor detects something abnormal during the rectal exam, he or she will order a blood test to measure your levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a substance produced by the prostate.

You need to eat a healthy diet that is low in fat and rich in antioxidants. Vegetables and fruit are the main sources of antioxidants.

If you have questions about one of these prostate problems and available treatments, your pharmacist can help you. If you have any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor.

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