Below-the-belt problems are embarrassing topics for men to talk about, even with their doctors. However, Dr. Gerald Chodak, author of the just-published “Winning the Battle Against Prostate Cancer,” says that talking with your doctor saves a lot of stress, and might just save your life. Remember, your doctor’s heard it all — and isn’t there to judge. Here are just a few common questions we got Dr. Chodak to speak on.
‘Will I get prostate cancer?’
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The PSA blood test, developed in the 1980s, measures a protein produced by both cancerous and non-cancerous cells. If the PSA reveals a high count of the protein, a doctor then looks for cancer cells, and it’s likely they will be found. But don’t worry! These cells don’t mean you have the disease.
“By the age of 20, 12 percent of all men have cancer cells in their prostate,” says Dr. Chodak. “By age 50, it’s 30 percent — and by age 80, it’s around 70 or 80 percent. If you look for cancer cells, you will find them, but most men are never in danger,” says Dr. Chodak.
Men should be aware of their prostate cancer risk, especially those with a father or brother who has had the disease: “It almost doubles the risk,” says Dr. Chodak. African-American men are also more likely to develop the disease.
There has been controversy surrounding the decision to get a PSA. Talk to your doctor about how to make the right choice for you.
‘Why do I have an enlarged prostate?’
Prostatic hyperplasia, or enlarged prostate, is generally considered a benign condition, but it’s uncomfortable. “It causes a range of urinary complaints including slowing of the [urine] stream, getting up to urinate at night, difficulty starting and stopping the stream and incomplete emptying of the bladder,” Dr. Chodak says. Unfortunately, we don’t know the reasons behind it, but it can be treated. Medication and surgery are options, as is a new non-surgical choice, PlasmaButton, which claims to vaporize the enlarged prostate tissue away, reducing pressure on the urethra.
‘Why can’t I get it up?’
If you’re facing this issue, know that you’re not alone: “It helps to know that 40 million American men have the same problem with erections,” says Dr. Chodak. “It’s usually men in their 30s or 40s.” Dr. Chodak says you should bring the issue to the attention of your doctor, who can help you narrow down the cause behind it. “It can depend on weight and diet, and drugs you might be taking — including recreational drugs.” Your doctor can then supply medication and look into supplementing your testosterone to fix the problem.
To avoid ED, skip the booze and the cigarettes. “Both cause vascular problems, and ED is largely a vascular condition,” Dr. Chodak says. And eat right too: “A healthy diet helps maintain vascular function and will result in better erectile function.”