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LifeWatch Employee Assistance Program




Prostate Facts

The prostate gland makes the semen, the liquid that carries sperm on ejaculation.  It's about the size of a walnut and sits at the base of the bladder, in front of the rectum, wrapped around the urethra (the tube through which urine passes).  Once men reach their 40s, the prostate starts to enlarge.  For some men, this does not cause any problems; for others, it causes difficulty with the flow of urine.  Possible symptoms include:  a weak flow of urine; interruption of the urinary stream; having to get up throughout the night to urinate; having to find a bathroom urgently when out and about; and dribbling after passing urine.

Why does it happen?

It is not entirely clear why the prostate enlarges as a man gets older.  Prostate cancer affects around one in ten men.  The most common cause of prostate problems, however, is benign prostatic hyperpasia (BPH), which is non-cancerous.

How are problems detected?

The doctor asks questions regarding medical history and symptoms.  If appropriate, the doctor performs a digital rectal examination.  (S)he inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate.  In addition, a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test can be used.  It measures the level of PSA in the bloodstream because a high level can be a sign of prostate cancer.  Depending on the results of these tests, a biopsy may be necessary.  It can determine definitively if prostate cancer is present.

What are the treatment options?

It's important to remember that prostate-related problems are not something that men just have to put up with.  If a man is diagnosed with a prostate problem, his doctor will help decide which treatment is best; there are many available.  Depending on the stage of the problem, the man's age, and other factors, options may include hormonal therapy, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or watchful waiting (observation).

Additional facts:

  • An enlarged prostate eventually develops in approximately 80% of all men
  • Prostate cancer occurs in one out of 10 men
  • More than 30,000 men die of prostate cancer each year in the United States
  • Prostate diseases usually occur in men over age 40
  • The yearly digital rectal examination is a quick, simple office procedure, and frequently allows doctors to detect prostate cancer before symptoms develop.  At this stage, prostate cancer is curable.

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