- Last Updated on Sunday, 29 May 2016 21:47
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. The good news is that it’s also one of the most curable cancers, if detected in the early stages.
Whatever your age, there’s no need to put up with discomfort when either urinating or ejaculating. While these problems may be a sign that something is wrong with your prostate gland, it does not necessarily mean that you have cancer, will need surgery, or that your sexual function will be affected. It is, however, advisable not to allow something as dumb as embarrassment to prevent you from having a chat with your doctor.
Just as women are encouraged to examine their own breasts, not as a substitute for a doctor doing the examination, but as an interim measure, so you should examine your prostate every six months or so, in between going for your annual medical examination.
How to do the self-exam
It’s possible for a man to feel his own prostate gland. It’s a walnut-sized organ at the base of the bladder. It can be felt with the tip of a finger inserted into the rectum. Its texture and firmness should be similar to that of the flesh between your thumb and the rest of the hand when you make a tight fist. If you feel anything that is as firm as the knuckle, then that needs to be brought to your doctor’s attention.
How you reach the prostate, of course, is up to you. Some men may do the examination in the shower, where soap can be used as a lubricant. This can be a little tricky, because you need to get the palm surface of your finger in contact with the prostate, although the fingernail surface can be used for a cursory examination. Take care that you don’t damage the wall of the rectum with a fingernail. You may feel more comfortable if you wear a thin latex glove.
You need to cover all surfaces, and you should be consistent in your approach. Use a sweeping motion of the finger on one side, and then switch to the other side, to make sure that you cover as much of the surface as possible.
When to see your doctor
If you find any changes in the size or the consistency of the prostate, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible. In addition, other signs to look out for include:
- Difficulty when urinating and a burning sensation
- A weak stream of urine – passing water for a long time
- A feeling of not being able to start urinating
- Exertion required before being able to urinate
- Complete inability to pass urine
- Feeling that you are unable to empty your bladder completely
- Dribbling after urinating
- A feeling of being unable to control yourself
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Change in the appearance of your urine, for example, if it has a very dark colour or contains blood
- Painful ejaculation
- Prolonged and painful erections of the penis
- A constant pain in the lower back and pelvis.
If the symptoms are mild, make a routine appointment; if you are incontinent, see your doctor within 24 hours; if you are unable to pass urine, see your doctor immediately.
Some tumours grow very slowly, and only cause symptoms once they are in an advanced stage. This is why those regular visits to your doctor for screening are vital.
Guth. M.A.S. Prostate self-exam or digital rectal exam; prostate self-examination at home. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKYCWkjmyYQ
Prostate cancer symptoms. Retrieved from http://www.pcf.org/site/c.leJRIROrEpH/b.5802031/k.6CE8/Prostate_Cancer_Symptoms.htm
(Revised by M van Deventer)