Health x Wellness

Prostate Health in brief

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There are a few conditions that can affect the prostate. They include Prostatitis (infection and inflammation), Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or BPH (an enlarged prostate which is not due to cancer), and Prostate Cancer. 

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis, just in front of the rectum. The gland is responsible for producing the fluid that goes into semen, which is a mixture of sperm and the fluid the prostate produces. The urethra (the tube in which urine travels to be expelled) runs from the bladder, through the center of the prostate, to the penis. 

Any man can develop a prostate problem. Prostatitis can affect men of all ages, and is the most common prostate problem in men younger than 50. BPH is the most common prostate problem in men older than 50. Prostate cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in males in Singapore and accounts for 12% of all male cancers diagnosed from 2008 to 2018.

According to the 2015 Singapore Cancer Registry report, the incidence of prostate cancer has been increasing from 9.7 per 100,000 previously to 28.5 per 100,000 in 2008 to 2012.

What are the symptoms?

Prostatitis can surface with many different symptoms, such as a discomfort on urination or ejaculation, urinary frequency, urinary urgency, pelvic or testicular discomfort, and lower back pain. 

Some of the symptoms of BPH are difficulty in starting the urination stream, urinary dribbling at the end of the stream, poor flow of urine, and waking multiple times at night to urinate. 

Prostate cancer may not have any symptoms at all, or may present with some of the symptoms of the other prostate conditions. 

If you do experience any of these symptoms, or any other symptoms which seem abnormal, please seek medical attention so your doctor can come to a diagnosis.

Keeping the prostate healthy

Here are some tips on keeping your prostate healthy. 

To reduce your risk of infectious prostatitis, practice safe sex and get screened regularly for sexually transmitted infections, especially ones that affect the urinary tract. Reducing your stress levels and anxiety can reduce your risk of chronic prostatitis. 

Studies have linked BPH with obesity, high blood pressure and cigarette smoking. Men who were more physically active were less likely to suffer from BPH. Even low to moderate physical activity, such as walking regularly at a moderate pace, yielded benefits.

Consuming alcohol in moderation has also been associated with a lower risk of BPH, while heavy drinking has the opposite effect. While the evidence is still spotty for lifestyle changes and reducing BPH risks, if you attend to these lifestyle elements, your general health will benefit even if your prostate does not.

Following a heart-healthy, low animal fat, low carbohydrate diet is key to cancer prevention, as are exercise, weight management, and stress reduction. Smoking is associated with a large number of cancers, including prostate cancer. If you do smoke, smoking cessation is highly encouraged.

Enjoy fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants and reduce the intake of processed and highly processed food. You may also consider eating more fish, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. As obesity has been linked to prostate cancer, consider a weight loss regime if you are overweight.

While the American Urological Association recommends screening for prostate cancer between the ages of 55 to 70 years, there are no specific guidelines in Singapore for population-level screening. The decision to screen for prostate cancer should be discussed with your doctor, taking into account your age, risk factors and family history. 

Article contributed by Dr Chester Lan.

He is the resident doctor at DTAP @ Kovan , he believes in holistic care individualised to each patient. This patient-centric approach, along with his friendly persona, has earned him the trust of many of his patients. He sees patients from all age groups over a variety of sub-specialties and understands that building trust and rapport, along with good communication, is the key to a successful patient-doctor relationship.