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Focus on men’s health

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Generic photo of two older men talking Alamy/PA.
Men’s health – mental and physical – is in crisis. But what are the issues behind the annual Movember campaign? Here CHRISTOS MICHAEL looks at problems with the prostate

 

With the start of November the male of the species around the world are encouraged to grow a moustache to raise awareness of men’s health issues, be that prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health, and suicide prevention.

Here we focus on an issue that only affects men – the prostate. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age, but that doesn’t mean it’s a disease that only affects old men. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide. But it is not just about cancer.

 

What is the prostate and where is it?

The prostate is a gland found in men which is located just below the bladder. Its function is to produce a liquid which nourishes and helps transport sperm during ejaculation. Both urine and sperm pass through the prostate.

What is prostate enlargement?

As men age, the prostate gradually enlarges. This is a normal process of ageing which is common and is not cancerous. In some men it can cause problems with passing urine as the prostate squeezes the passage of urine out of the bladder.

What is prostate cancer and who is at risk?

Prostate cancer is the commonest form of cancer in men. Men are more at risk the older they are. Prostate cancers can be slow growing, but can also be faster growing and more aggressive. Men over 50, especially men over 65, those with a family history of prostate cancer and black men are more at risk.

What is PSA and when should I test for it?

PSA is a prostate protein detected by a blood test. Higher levels can mean prostate enlargement, inflammation, infection or even prostate cancer. You may test for it if you are in the risk groups mentioned above, taking into account the pros and cons. Men with a family history should test younger – from the age of 40. You should also see your doctor if you have trouble urinating or see blood when you ejaculate. PSA can miss some types of cancer, which is why it should be combined with a prostate exam – the doctor will insert their gloved finger into your back passage to examine the prostate for any abnormalities. You should avoid sex, intense exercise, cycling and a prostate exam 48 hours before a PSA test.

What are the pros and cons of having a prostate checkup?

The main advantage is detecting cancers earlier. The main disadvantage is getting a false positive leading to high stress, unnecessary investigations and procedures which may have significant side effects such as infections, incontinence and erection problems. This is something you should discuss with your GP so they can take into account your individual circumstances.

Dr Michael is a London trained GP and Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Nicosia Medical School. He will be giving an online lecture on men’s health topics on November 25 at 7pm. https://youtu.be/dBGGNV07k8Q

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