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Prostate Health: What You Should Know

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Prostate Health: What You Should Know

We’re aware that very many of our readers are women, who do not have a prostate.

However, dear reader: if you do have one, and/or love someone who has one, this is a good thing to know about.

The prostate gland is a (hopefully) walnut-sized gland (it actually looks a bit like a walnut too), that usually sits just under the bladder.

See also: How to Locate Your Prostate*

*The scale is not great in these diagrams, but they’ll get the job done. Besides, everyone is different on the inside, anyway. Not in a “special unique snowflake” way, but in a “you’d be surprised how much people’s insides move around” way.

Fun fact: did you ever feel like your intestines are squirming? That’s because they are.

You can’t feel it most of the time due to the paucity of that kind of nervous sensation down there, but the peristaltic motion that they use to move food along them on the inside, also causes them push against the rest of your guts, on the outside of them. This is the exact same way that many snakes move about.

If someone has to perform an operation in that region, sometimes it will be necessary to hang the intestines on a special rack, to keep them in one place for the surgery.

What can go wrong?

There are two very common things that can go wrong with the prostate:

  1. Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH), otherwise known as an enlarged prostate
  2. Prostate cancer

For most men, the prostate gland continues to grow with age, which is how the former comes about so frequently.

For everyone, due to the nature of the mathematics involved in cellular mutation and replication, we will eventually get cancer if something else doesn’t kill us first.

  • Prostate cancer affects 12% of men overall, and 60% of men aged 60+, with that percentage climbing each year thereafter.
  • Prostate cancer can look like BPH in the early stages (and/or, an enlarged prostate can turn cancerous) so it’s important to not shrug off the symptoms of BPH.

How can BPH be avoided/managed?

There are prescription medications that can help reduce the size of the prostate, including testosterone blockers (such as spironolactone and bicalutamide) and 5α-reductase inhibitors, such as finasteride. Each have their pros and cons:

  • Testosterone-blockers are the heavy-hitters, and work very well… but have more potential adverse side effects (your body is used to running on testosterone, after all)
  • 5α-reductase inhibitors aren’t as powerful, but they block the conversion of free testosterone to dihydrogen testosterone (DHT), and it’s primarily DHT that causes the problems. By blocking the conversion of T to DHT, you may actually end up with higher serum testosterone levels, but fewer ill-effects. Exact results will vary depending on your personal physiology, and what else you are taking, though.

There are also supplements that can help, including saw palmetto and pumpkin seed oil. Here’s a good paper that covers both:

Effects of pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil in Korean men with symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia

We have recommended saw palmetto before for a variety of uses, including against BPH:

Too much or too little testosterone? This one supplement may fix that

You might want to avoid certain medications that can worsen BPH symptoms (but not actually the size of the prostate itself). They include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (most modern antidepressants aren’t this kind; ask your pharmacist/doctor if unsure)

You also might want to reduce/skip:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

In all the above cases, it’s because of how they affect the bladder, not the prostate, but given their neighborliness, each thing affects the other.

What if it’s cancer? How do I know and what do I do?

The creator of the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test has since decried it as “a profit-driven health disaster” that is “no better than a coin toss”, but it remains the first go-to of many medical services.

However, there’s a newer, much more accurate test, called the Prostate Screening Episwitch (PSE) test, which is 94% accurate, so you might consider asking your healthcare provider whether that’s an option:

The new prostate cancer blood test with 94 per cent accuracy

As for where to go from there, we’re out of space for today, but we previously reviewed a very good book about this, Dr. Patrick Walsh’s Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer, and we highly recommend it—it could easily be a literal lifesaver.

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