Tuesday, March 13, 2012

There's This Little Gland ...

Let's talk today, guys, about Mr. Prostate Gland! In the picture above, Mr. Prostate is the little heart-shaped white thingee with Mr.Urethra running through the middle of him, just under Mr. Bladder–he's the big kidney-bean-shaped organ at the top center of the image.

(Mr. Happy is at the center, extending to the bottom of the photograph.)

Are you still with me?

Mr. Prostate is an amazing fellow. I will not offer Too Much Information, let's just say that end-stage activities with Mr. Happy during which Mr. Happy grows larger for a time–more than four hours, you are supposed to call your doctor–require the assistance of Mr. Prostate to come to a satisfying conclusion.

Thing is, Mr. Prostate is a tricky fellow. While he starts out about the size of a walnut when you are, say, thirty or so, he often continues to grow, like your ears and nose do. So that by the time you are sixty, he is larger, say, nectarine-sized. At eighty or ninety, Mr. Prostate can be as large as an apple.

This is called Benign Prostate Hyperplasia, or BPH. There seems to be a direct link to the amount of circulating testosterone in your system, so that the more manly you are, the more likely you are to eventually get BPH.

The increasing size presents a problem, because the prostate squeezes the urethra, sometimes hard enough so that urine flow is markedly decreased, and the bladder gets backed up. Stopping/starting, retention, weak stream, increased pressure, an urgent need to pee making you get up in the middle of the night, all of which can lead to infections, bladder stones, and major discomfort. 

Fortunately, there are treatments, herbal, medical, surgical. (There's one involving insertion of a tube through the urethra and needles that pop out at right angles and zap the tissue with electricity ...)

Ow. Ow. Ow–

 Oops, TMI. Sorry. 

But  that's one kind of problem. There is another that is worse.

Prostate cancer. 

This is the second-leading cancer among men, just behind lung cancer, and on the rise. There are a lot of things that predispose one to developing this, genetics, environment, diet. While usually slow-growing, it does knock off about ten percent of men who develop it, and just under a quarter-million cases a year are diagnosed. 

Usually, it is so slow-growing that if you develop prostate cancer when most men do, around age seventy, doctors will sometimes recommend that they don't treat it, going with the notion that something else will probably kill you before the cancer does. 

Two guys, same age, one gets surgery, the other doesn't, the mortality rates aren't all that different, so they say, and the surgery carries certain risks. 

I'm not overwhelmed with that argument. The Big C makes me nervous. I know of a case, two guys, fairly young, both diagnosed with prostate cancer. One elected to get the surgery, the other didn't. Guy who did is still around; the other guy isn't. 

Prostate cancer can be aggressive, especially among younger men. Part of being a manly man is that sometimes, testosterone is a poison ...

All of which is to say that one you are past the age of forty, you need to get a prostate exam every year or so. There is a blood test, the prostate-specific-antigen, or PSA, that is used as a screener. The Feds have decided that statistically, this doesn't help all that much, but my doctor is not impressed with their logic, nor am I. If you get a false-positive, you can retest, or do a biopsy, and I want to know what's going on. Statistics aren't all that comforting, and better safe than sorry. 

The more, ah, interesting part of the exam? Again, I won't overload you with TMI, dude, but it involves your doctor's finger, a rubber glove, and KY-Jelly. 

This is not, for most of us who are heterosexual men, the most pleasant of experiences, and I can see why you might avoid it; nonetheless, and if it never crossed your mind, I hereby urge you think seriously about it. If I have to get it done, you should have to get it done ...

Read chapter seven in the text, there will be a quiz on Wednesday, and remember, the quizzes count for one third of your grade ...


Ed said...

Moooon Riverrr....comes to mind - cant remember the movie...I think Leslie Nielsen was in it.

I have found raw pumpkin seeds are handy for the prostate health - I get them from the bulk section at Market of Choice. A big pinch of them once or twice a day a few times a week seems to be good for "me".

Ed said...

....also cucumber is good for the prostate too. I ask for extra on my subway sandwiches. Seems to help me too. Though by far the pumpkin seeds are where I see the most help.