It’s a health condition many Baby Boomers aren’t talking about, yet the lives of 2.4 million Australian men are being impacted by benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Also known as enlarged prostate, the condition significantly impacts a man’s lifestyle choices and quality of life.
Although non-cancerous, the enlargement of the prostate is a problem that typically impacts older men in society. While one of the most common urological conditions, it’s something many men have difficulty talking about.
For some, BPH results in frequent urination. For others, it’s the difficulty to start urinating or trouble emptying the bladder. Many notice they’re waking up numerous times a night to rush to the toilet, leading to sleep loss and other problems. Alarmingly, 68 per cent of men experiencing BPH symptoms say the condition has impacted their quality of life, causing them to participate less in sport, social and travel activities.
Around 570,000 Australian men have taken the plunge and spoken to their GP or health professional about their symptoms, although many refuse treatment because they’re afraid of the potential side effects. In most cases, men have three options when it comes to their condition.
The first is taking medication, which can reduce the symptoms of BPH. The problem is it can take several weeks or even months to start working, while the medication can also cause side effects including headaches, lethargy, dizziness and sexual dysfunction. While this method of treatment can temporarily fix the problem, many men notice symptoms still become worse over time.
Some men can “watch and wait”, although this isn’t recommended as it can cause permanent bladder problems. Effectively, this isn’t treating the problem at all. The third option is surgery, which typically involves the removal of prostate tissue. While it is recognised as an effective method of treatment, it poses the risk of catheterisation, sexual dysfunction and lengthy recovery times.
“Unfortunately for many men who have seen a doctor, the BPH treatments provide insufficient relief or bothersome side effects, making the symptoms sometimes more appealing to live with than the treatment options,” Peter Chin, associate professor and urologist at Wollongong’s Graduate School of Medicine said in a statement. “Men often wait until the last minute to do something and by that time there are a lot of changes to the bladder than can’t be changed.”
Methods of surgery are changing though, meaning invasive surgeries used in the past aren’t the only way to treat BPH. One option is the UroLift System, a permanent implant that lifts and holds the enlarged prostate tissue out so it doesn’t block the urethra.
“What makes UroLift different to others out there is that it is the only BPH treatment that does not cause sexual dysfunction because you are not burning or removing tissue,” Chin said.
A man who knows all too well how delaying BPH treatment can cause problems is Peter Tornaros from Wollongong. He was waking up every hour to go to the toilet each night, making him grumpy and tired the next day.
“My constant visits to the toilet also disturbed my wife’s sleep and as a result we were grumpy and argued more,” he recalled. “But beyond that, it had a real impact on my mood. I was down and didn’t want to meet up with friends and family, I became very insular.”
Like many men, he didn’t realise the symptoms were treatable and he simply put them down to old age. At its worst, he felt embarrassed to talk to his GP because he didn’t want to talk about his bladder problems.
“It made me feel old and as if I was past it,” he said.
For men experiencing symptoms or problems with your prostate, it’s best to always discuss the issue with a GP or a doctor. Treatment is available and a GP will be able to offer a solution that works best for individual circumstances.