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Globally, men die on average five years earlier than women, and for reasons that are largely preventable.
With Men’s Health Month taking place this November, it’s a good time to talk about health issues that impact men specifically and the simple things men can do to stay in top form.
We spoke to Mr Leye Ajayi, Consultant Urological Surgeon, who practices at our hospital, to find out more about how men can stay healthy, common men’s health issues, and signs that something might not be quite right.
So, what does an urologist do?
A urologist is surgeon who deals with conditions relating to the urinary tract in men and women as well as the male reproductive systems. They treat different conditions which might affect the kidneys, ureters (the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder), the bladder, and the male reproductive systems.
Thinking about men’s health, what conditions do you see most often in your practice?
My area of sub-specialist interest is kidney stones, but I deal with all aspects of men’s health. This includes issues with the prostate (benign or cancer), bladder cancer, urinary infections and disorders of the peno-scrotal area, such has testis cancer, scrotal swelling, and erectile dysfunction.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide – what are the signs and symptoms people should look out for?
Your risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age, but that doesn’t mean it’s a disease that only affects old men. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide. Men who are Afro-Caribbean, and men who have a family history (a brother or father with prostate cancer), are 2.5x more likely to get prostate cancer.
If you’re 50, you should be talking to your doctor about PSA testing. If you’re black, you need to start that conversation at 45. And if you have a brother or father with prostate cancer in their history, do it at 45.
A PSA test is a simple routine blood test used to determine the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) concentration in the blood. The test isn’t cancer-specific, but it does give information about the prostate and is the primary method of testing for prostate cancer. Should the result of the test be 4µg/l or more , then we would consider investigating that patient – a normal PSA level is below 4µg/l.
Interestingly, vast cases of men with prostate cancer are picked up incidentally, with a blood test. In the UK, we don’t routinely offer PSA screening blood test for men, so make sure to ask your doctor for it (and raise awareness within your family and friend groups). From the age of 50, I would suggest having a PSA test once a year together with all your routine blood tests.
If you do have an issue with your prostate, then your symptoms might include:
Straining to pee, which can result in dribbling in the underwear at the end
Spending a long time in the toilet urinating.
Hesitancy and having a poor stream
Needing the toilet suddenly and urgently
Going to the toilet many times during the night
Occasionally, blood in the urine
In a worst case situation, men may find that they can’t pee at all. This is a medical emergency called retention of urine. When this happens, they would have to go to their local emergency department to decompress the bladder and have a urethral catheter inserted.
Erectile dysfunction affects many men – what advice would you give to someone suffering with this problem?
The cause can be organic – e.g. a medical problem such as diabetes, which affects the nerve supply; if they’re heavy smokers, which affects the blood supply; or mental health factors that can manifest physically, such as stress, anxiety or depression.
It’s a very common condition and I would definitely inform men to seek medical advice. Macho culture or social stigma can prevent people from asking for help, but lots of studies have identified that erectile dysfunction might be the tip of the iceberg for men who have cardio vascular risk. This is because the contributing risk factors are the same for both erectile dysfunction and heart disease – i.e. smoking, being overweight, having high cholesterol or being diabetic.
Asking for medical advice now could nip a problem in the bud and prevent something serious, such as a heart attack, from happening in the future. It could save your life.
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