Understanding Prostate Health

by Robert J. Cornell, M.D.Dr Cornell

One in six men will develop prostate cancer

Fifty percent of men over the age of 50 suffer from an enlarged prostate called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH. The prostate continues to grow throughout a man’s lifetime and studies show that by the age of 85, most men will have BPH. Only about 30 percent of them will find the symptoms bothersome. 

While it cannot be prevented and usually is not a serious or life-threatening condition, it can cause problems urinating, primarily in men over 50. Knowing the facts is the key to understanding prostate health.

The prostate is a small gland in men that is part of the reproductive system. It's about the shape and size of a walnut and rests below the bladder. As a man ages, the prostate grows larger and may cause blockage of the urinary tract. Men with urinary problems should see a urologist because the symptoms of BPH can be similar to the symptoms of prostate cancer, so it's important to get an accurate diagnosis. Let your doctor know if you have a family history of prostate cancer. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles the risk of developing the disease, and one in six men will develop prostate cancer in his lifetime. 

The good news is that the 10-year survival rate for men diagnosed with prostate cancer through screening is 98 percent following treatment. Ninety-three percent of these tumors will be confined to the prostate and are curable.

The bad news is that 10 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer will die from the disease, with 44 percent of deaths occurring among African-American men, the vast majority of whom were not screened. 

Death from prostate cancer represents neglect. Don’t neglect your health! Get a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test AND a digital rectal exam every year. 

Dr. Cornell is a board-certified urologist on the medical staff at St. Joseph Medical Center.

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