If your doctor suggests you see a urologist, you may feel a bit squeamish. Rest assured, urologists will do their best to put you at ease.
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“It’s fun to be a urologist. We get to help people solve problems they may not want to talk about, which involve body areas they generally don’t discuss,” says urologist Bradley Gill, MD.
“Because these problems can be distressing or feel awkward to address, our goal is to help make you comfortable. We try to normalize situations, and humor is generally pretty effective for this … so don’t be surprised, you may be in store for some ‘potty’ humor.”
He enjoys the long-term relationships urologists build with most patients. Urologists treat a wide range of problems, including bladder and prostate cancer, prostate gland enlargement, erectile dysfunction, kidney stones, bladder issues and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Bladder and prostate cancer
If you’re like most men, when you hear “urologist,” you think “prostate exam.”
“This is not necessarily untrue; we’ll want to check on your prostate health,” says Dr. Gill. “Believe it or not, the prostate exam is not your urologist’s favorite part of the visit, either.”
In the current era of PSA testing, cancer is found less often on prostate exams than it once was.
“But the exam remains an important part of your visit with regard to your overall prostate health — not to mention it can also help us plan treatment for many prostate conditions,” he says.
Should cancer be found in your prostate or bladder, urologists can offer lifesaving care. So it’s important to follow through when you’re referred to one.
“A urologist can help make sure you don’t have a disease that could take away from the time you have left with loved ones,” says Dr. Gill.
Robotic surgery has helped reduce the nearly week-long hospital stay for kidney, bladder or prostate cancer surgery in the past to just a few days, or even one day, today.
“We use technology to help care for men in a number of ways. The field of urology is dynamic — it’s always changing,” he says.
Prostate gland enlargement
When you wake up at night to go to bathroom but can’t produce the stream you once did, urologists can help.
“In some ways, we’re not that different from the neighborhood plumber you call when your pipes get clogged,” says Dr. Gill.
“I always tell men their prostate grows as they age because it stores all the wisdom they’ve collected along the way. This usually gets an audible eye roll from spouses or partners — but it helps facilitate a relaxed environment for easier discussion.”
Urologists have various techniques for relieving the obstruction a large prostate can cause, from laser therapy to steam treatments.
“We can often get a guy home the same day that he has his procedure or surgery,” he says.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be common as guys get older.
“If you’re in your 40s or 50s and notice your erections aren’t quite what they used to be, we want you to come and talk to us,” says Dr. Gill.
Urologists are here to help you figure these things out, he says. Their goal is to make your life better.
Not to mention that, in some situations, erectile dysfunction can indicate other health problems that generally need careful attention.
If you’ve ever had a major kidney stone, you’re not likely to forget it.
“You really get to know patients when you help them manage their kidney stones over time,” says Dr. Gill.
Because kidney stones can recur, many patients need long-term care. Your urologist can advise you on how to prevent stone formation and how to best manage any potentially painful stones that develop.
Yes, urologists see women, too
Generally, about two-thirds of the patients urologists see are men, and about one-third are women. But this is very practice-specific, and can vary based upon a doctor’s specialty training.
“We focus on taking care of the whole patient, and on providing high-quality treatment and working toward a good quality of life for everyone we see,” he says.
Some men prefer to see a male urologist, while some women prefer to see a female urologist. Dr. Gill says this can also go the other way.
“The quality of care will be the same,” he notes. “Furthermore, if a guy feels bashful around female staff, he should always remember that what he’s coming in with is nothing they haven’t seen before.”
Pain should not be part of the process
Whenever you see a urologist for an office procedure, you can generally expect an anesthetic to keep you comfortable.
“We’ll usually numb you before a bladder scope. Our first step in a vasectomy is a nice, healthy-sized injection of local anesthesia. And we do a prostate block before every prostate biopsy,” says Dr. Gill.
While you may feel pressure or things moving around during a procedure, you shouldn’t feel pain, he says.
“Remind yourself that your urologist is trying to help you, keep you comfortable throughout your care, and work to make your quality of life better — whether you’re struggling with urinary problems, sexual function issues, kidney stones, or cancer,” he says.