Let’s get down to business, ladies. You probably care about your man’s health more than he does. Especially his prostate health.
Men tend not to talk about these issues with each other, neither do they want to feel old enough to need uncomfortable prostate exams.
It doesn’t take much to understand the issues your partner faces and how you can help, so let’s unroll the map and get familiar with the landscape—in a whole new way.
What is the Prostate?
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that sits right below a man’s bladder and surrounds his urethra (the tube that drains his urine). It produces semen to protect and nourish sperm. The prostate is indetectable when it works, but when it doesn’t, it can cause issues no man (or woman) wants.
Common Prostate Problems
Prostate problems are extremely common, so men shouldn’t feel embarrassed to experience one. You can help your partner know what they are and notice when something isn’t right.
Prostatitis is when the prostate becomes inflamed, most often because of an infection that can be treated with antibiotics.
Enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), affects more than half of men over age 50. In this case, bigger isn’t better. Doctors don’t exactly know what causes BPH, but they believe that hormone changes during aging may be a factor. BPH can be effectively treated with medicines or surgery.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting men (after skin cancer). 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, but the good news is that it’s treatable, especially if diagnosed early. Less than 3% of cases are fatal.
Symptoms to Watch For
Early symptoms of various problems with the prostate look the same, so it’s important to urge your partner to get screened if you notice he experiences some.
Frequent or painful urination, or difficulty beginning to urinate.
Weak urine flow, or blood in his urine.
Difficulty getting and maintaining an erection, or a painful ejaculation.
Consistent pain in the pelvis, lower back, upper thigh, and hips.
Catch Problems Early
Starting at age 50, all men should have a routine prostate screening during their annual physical, though Black men are at higher risk and should consider starting at an earlier age.
Do your part to educate and nudge your partner towards getting screened. Maybe celebrate his 50th birthday with a large cake with his doctor’s phone number written in the frosting :)
Ask your partner if anyone in his family has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. If so, be persistent in encouraging him to set up regular exams starting at age 40, because he is more likely to get prostate cancer, too.
The Rubber Glove Test
The digital rectal exam (DRE)—there’s no getting around it if your man wants to be sure he’s healthy. During a DRE, the patient bends forward at the waist or lies on his side with his knees pulled toward his chest. His doctor gently inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate for irregular shape, size, or texture.
It doesn’t last long and isn’t painful, but just like your PAP smear isn’t the best part of your day, his DRE isn’t going to be the best part of his.
The second part of a thorough prostate screen is the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test This test measures the blood level of a protein made by the prostate. A high number isn’t a cancer diagnosis, but it can indicate your partner may be more likely to develop prostate cancer.
Encourage More Testing
If one of these routine prostate tests shows any irregularity, the doctor may conduct further testing for your partner, such as a prostate ultrasound—where a lubricated ultrasound wand is gently inserted into his rectum to get a better view of any potential issues.
If cancer is a possibility, the doctor is likely to suggest a prostate biopsy. During a biopsy, the doctor uses a needle to take a small sample of tissue from the prostate and sends it to a lab for testing.
Lowering His Risk
A healthy diet can lower your man’s chances of developing a problem with his prostate. A low-sugar, high-fiber diet is a good start. Foods like tomatoes and broccoli have compounds that may lower his risk of getting prostate cancer.
Research has shown that smoking is linked to higher rates of prostate cancer among men.
There’s no better time or reason to insist that he give it up. Maybe he won’t be able to light up, but he will see more fire in his love life—a win for you both.
Your partner may balk when you bring up his prostate, but let him know you’re on his side and want to keep him healthy and happy for years to come.
Let’s stay healthier, together,
Your friends at Santo Remedio
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