During his lifetime, one in five men will suffer from prostate cancer. This type of male cancer is the equivalent to breast cancer in women. But, whereas women go for preventive screening, men are reluctant to do anything about it. This lack of awareness can have serious consequences. In addition to this, prostate disorders have a huge effect upon a man's self-esteem, because they often go hand-in-hand with a loss of sexual function.
The European prostate day this coming Monday, 15 September 2014, is also a men's health day. For many types of cancer, men have a higher mortality rate than women. Possible explanations for this lie in different behaviours when it comes to the classic risk factors. Men continue to smoke more and to drink more alcohol than women. "Whereas women have been used to having regular gynaecological examinations from an early age, men usually only visit their doctor when they have a problem,” explains Shahrokh Shariat, Head of the Urology Department at the Medical University of Vienna at Vienna General Hospital, “and, even then, it is often their wives who take the initiative."
The most common reason for men to seek help from a urologist is benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). This is a benign enlargement of the normally walnut-sized gland in middle-aged to older men. After the age of 60, BPH affects one in two men. This enlargement results in a constant urge to urinate but with a simultaneous reduction in urinary pressure. Urinating becomes a problem. This has a hugely negative impact upon a man’s quality of life.
A diseased prostate also interferes with a man's sex life. The prostate is the central organ of male fertility. A prostate problem often leads to erectile dysfunction and reduced orgasmic capacity. These impairments affect a man's psychological well-being, explains Shariat: "The prostate gland is the emotional seat of virility and, if it is not functioning properly, men often doubt themselves. They no longer feel like real men."
Medical advances via precision medicine
At the Urology Department of MedUni Vienna at Vienna General Hospital, great progress is being made in the area of diagnostics. Diagnostic accuracy is being enhanced by new biomarkers and successful collaborative projects with researchers in the area of imaging diagnostics, as well as new technologies in the field of molecular pathology. Individually adapted treatments are proving to be a successful way forward. Not every cancer requires surgery. Often a minimally invasive intervention or the new robot system or active monitoring is sufficient. Thanks to an improved molecular risk strategy, survival times can now be extended by several months, even in previously hopeless cases.
Preventive screening after the age of 45
Shariat recommends that, after the age of 45, men should go for regular preventive screening. The earlier a cancer is discovered, the better the chances of recovery. And no one should be ashamed to go to a urologist: "If you have a problem, it is advisable to seek medical help as soon as possible, rather than to put it off. At the end of the day, a fulfilling sex life and urological check-ups also contribute to overall well-being."