One of the most common conditions I see in my surgery is enlarged prostate or, to give it its full medical title, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). That’s not surprising as approximately 50% of men over 50 will have experienced the symptoms of BPH and that percentage increases with age.
In spite of this many of the men I see have put off coming into the surgery for a number of months and, in some cases, even longer. I also suspect that there are many more that are simply not coming forward at all.
This could be to do with the symptoms associated with BPH – needing to pee more frequently or urgently, a feeling that the bladder is never fully empty, or difficulty going when needed. Not exactly the easiest topic to raise.
Perhaps that’s why recent research from herbal remedies manufacturer A.Vogel suggests that 1 in 5 UK men would “just ignore the problem and hope it got better by itself” if they were experiencing these symptoms.
It’s not just the embarrassment factor that’s causing this prostate procrastination though. In my experience, some men are reluctant to come forward because they assume it’s just a natural part of ageing and there’s nothing they can do. The truth is there are a number of ways to relieve the symptoms of BPH, including lifestyle adjustments, licensed natural remedies, such as saw palmetto, or prescription medications – depending on individual preferences and the severity of the condition.
If left untreated, BPH can result in complications such as bladder infections, acute or chronic urine retention, which can affect the kidneys, and hernia from straining.
Why carry on getting up repeatedly during the night, ducking out of meetings at work, putting up with the impact on your relationship and sex life – when help is at hand?
The final reason I think some men don’t come forward is an underlying fear that it might be cancer. Although an enlarged prostate can be a sign of prostate cancer, it’s actually far more likely to be BPH. Either way it’s important to get checked out. Getting a diagnosis for prostate cancer early can help detect it at a more treatable stage. Getting a diagnosis for BPH will, for the vast majority, result in a sense of relief when they realise they have a non-cancerous and treatable condition.
So if you’ve read the above and recognise some of the symptoms then I urge you to take the first step in seeking help. The following tips should hopefully help you start the conversation.
Tips on talking Prostate health
Arm yourself with information before you talk to someone – go to a reputable online source such as NHS Choices or A.Vogel’s Enlarged Prostate Health Hub. Try completing this confidential symptom checker as a first step
If you don’t feel ready to go to your doctor yet, try talking to your partner or another close relative, it may be that they’ve noticed the issue anyway and are keen to help
When you do feel ready for a trip to the GP there are gentle ways into the conversation which will help raise the subject. For example, why not start by talking about how tired you are feeling, then discuss your sleep disruption – this should then lead on naturally to talking about the reasons for this
- If you think you might not cover all the points you want to raise – try making a few notes before you go, this can help focus the mind and provides a useful conversation guide
Remember you’re not alone – it’s a very common problem and the sooner you tackle it the more relieved you’ll feel. The conversation is rarely as bad as you think it’s going to be!