Keeping your hair. Losing that belly and staying fit. Juggling your family life with your career and friends. If you’re a man 40 or older, seeing a urologist is most likely the last thing on your mind when you have a million other things to worry about.
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Don’t cross that off your list so quickly, though.
“To take charge of your prostate, urinary and sexual health — not just to protect you from prostate cancer — I recommend every man start seeing a urologist regularly at age 40,” says urologist Eric Klein, MD.
You may resist at first, especially if you have to be dragged to your primary care physician for annual checkups, but seeing a urologist can make your everyday life better.
How a urologist can help you with daily life
As you go through your 40s, quality-of-life issues become more important.
“Prostate and sexual health will play a big role in this,” says Dr. Klein. “Urologists are experts in managing these issues and can help guide you on what to expect, useful lifestyle changes, when to simply observe and when to treat a problem.”
In your late 40s you may begin to have difficulty urinating due to an enlarged prostate, which is part of getting older. But too many trips to the bathroom — day and night — can make daily life more of a pain than it needs to be.
To start, your urologist may recommend you make some lifestyle changes. This can include avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
An enlarged prostate can be treated with medications to relieve symptoms or even partially shrink the prostate. You may also decide on a minimally invasive office procedure to remove part of the prostate or, if necessary, surgery.
Erectile dysfunction and declining libido aren’t uncommon for guys starting in their late 40s and early 50s, with about 1 in 10 adult males suffering from it. The cause isn’t always physical, but a urologist can help if it is.
“Your urologist can check your hormones with a simple blood test and prescribe testosterone replacements if you have low testosterone,” says Dr. Klein.
Your urologist will also be able to recommend other options such as medication, sex therapy, vacuum devices, injection therapy, or in some cases, penile implants.
If you’ve already had a family and aren’t hoping to add to it, you might be interested in having a vasectomy. It’s an option that could give you and your partner peace of mind in your sex life.
If you think a vasectomy might be right for you, rest assured it’s a safe and quick outpatient procedure with no long-term risks. Your urologist can answer any questions and concerns you have about the procedure, give you guidance on other forms of birth control, perform the procedure and let you know when it’s safe to have unprotected sex with your spouse.
Prostate cancer screenings can save your life
A single prostate-specific antigen (PSA) determination in your 40s can predict your lifetime risk of prostate cancer.
“I recommend a baseline PSA test when you hit your mid-40s,” says Dr. Klein. “This blood test can help determine your risk of developing prostate cancer and show us specifically what we need to do to screen you in the future.”
The American Cancer Society notes that your PSA level in blood is measured in nanograms per milliliter and there is no set cutoff point that can tell if a man has or doesn’t have prostate cancer. The higher your PSA level, the higher chance you have of having prostate cancer. However, factors such as age, prostate infections and certain medical procedures can affect PSA levels, too.
If your PSA is .7 or below, you may only need to be screened every five years or so. Your lifetime risk of prostate cancer is around 10% or less. If you’re at higher risk with a score of 1 or above, you may benefit from more frequent screening. If you reach 60 and your score is below a 1 or 2, it’s likely safe to spread out the screening interval again.
“Cancer screenings can be lifesavers,” he says. “Regular visits to your urologist can keep you feeling good and make the aging problems all of us men face a little easier to cope with.”