The Problem Your Man May Have … That You May Know Nothing About
Here's what he won't tell you.
It’s scary when it’s your guy.
My boyfriend, “Matt,” and I had been going out for more than four years when he told me he had to tell me something. He’d been having symptoms of a prostate issue for months, but had put off telling me, or talking to his doctor, about it. He’d finally made an appointment with a urologist, and I knew he was worried. So was I. He had never had trouble getting an erection, but his symptoms — having an increasingly hard time urinating and a prostate that was enlarged on one side — were concerning.
His doctor had prescribed him an alpha-blocker to ease his symptoms, but the medication hadn’t helped. I knew that prostate cancer is fairly common, affecting 1 in 8 men, according to the American Cancer Society. And so, I insisted on coming along with him to his upcoming doctor’s appointments.
The good news, we learned after a couple of diagnostic procedures, is that he didn’t have cancer. But what he did have was benign prostatic hyperplasia (“BPH”), the most common prostate issue for men over 50, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Age is a primary risk factor for this condition, which affects about half of all men between 51 and 60. By the time you’re 80, up to 90 percent of men will have symptoms such as a weak urine stream, trouble starting or stopping urinating, having to urinate frequently and urinary incontinence.
After talking it over and considering the risks, Matt opted for a relatively new procedure called Rezūm, or water-induced thermotherapy, which uses steam to destroy prostate tissue. The procedure itself took just a few minutes in his urologist’s office. Matt had to wear a catheter for a few days afterwards, but said his pain was minimal. Now, two months later, he’s had a significant decrease in his symptoms, which should continue to improve over the coming months.
A Growing Problem — Literally
Chances are your guy is going to face prostate issues as he hits his 50s and beyond. “For a man, there are three things that will grow his entire life — his ears, his nose and his prostate,” says Ryan Manecke, M.D., a board-certified urologist in Chicago. “The issue isn’t that the bladder grows, but that it can change shape — from an open channel to a tighter channel that [means] the bladder has to work harder to push urine out.”
While many men may be hesitant to seek treatment for this common condition, BPH can cause kidney or bladder damage in addition to other annoying symptoms if left untreated. “Without intervention, the bladder commonly adapts in a functional way and then it adapts in a dysfunctional way,” says Manecke. “It loses capacity and starts to twitch [spasm] at night.” The result is your guy may be getting up to pee several times a night or be unable to make it through a movie or a football game without using the bathroom.
Doctors usually recommend medication first, which can help manage symptoms. If that’s ineffective, there are several different treatments available, which range from minimally invasive treatments to surgical options for men who have severe symptoms or who haven’t been helped with medication or other treatments. Recovery time is typically between three days and six weeks depending on the procedure, but it takes about six months for the best results, Manecke says.
Getting Your Dude to the Doc
That’s the good news. The bad is that it can be challenging to get your man to the doctor. This is when a little supportive nagging may help. In my case, I encouraged Matt to have the procedure because I was worried about his symptoms getting worse. I went to his doctor appointments with him and took notes about what to expect. And I told him I knew he’d be fine, and that we’d figure out the coming weeks and months together. It’s scary when it’s your guy.
Take a similar approach with your guy if he’s complaining or worried about symptoms. You may need to use some tough love.
Nearly 3 in 4 men surveyed say they’d rather do household chores than see their doctor, and 1 in 5 admit not being completely honest with their physician about their health, according to a national survey by the Cleveland Clinic.
“Men should get checked out once a year for prostate cancer,” says Manecke. “As far as BPH symptoms, the critical question we always ask is, ‘How would you feel with the current symptoms — forever?’ If you’re not happy, if you wait, it may get worse.
“It shouldn’t be scary anymore,” he adds. “Even with the older procedures we’re doing, like a TURP [a surgical procedure that removes pieces of the prostate], it’s all new equipment and it’s much safer than before. It shouldn’t be something that should be scary. It should be something the guy feels good about — and feels better about having a better quality of life, after it’s done.”
That’s what I want for my guy, and for me. I bet it’s what you want for yours, too.
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