Now that we’ve all had a good laugh at my moustache, we’ll come back to a bit of learnin’ regarding Men’s Health, which is the real reason Movember exists and I’m growing a Mo.
Get squeamish guys, we’re talking prostate. Yep. That bit-bigger-than-a-walnut sized gland below your bladder and North-North-West of your asshole.
It’s a fascinating little fellow and here’s what it does. Your prostate secretes a slightly alkaline fluid that is about 25 to 30 percent of your semen. Not the sperm themselves, that’s a nut job, pun intended, but the seminal vesicles pass up from the nuts to the prostate and mix together to pass down your penis when you pop your cookies from watching “The Golden Girls” reruns. That Rue McClanahan…what a Minx! Oh crap, that was out loud wasn’t it?
The reason the prostatic fluid is slightly alkaline is to give your sperm a fighting chance in the Great Swim of Life. The vagina is acidic, so a bit of alkali lets the lads live longer, eventually leading to fertilization, yadda, yadda, yadda, right up to “Yes Dad, it’s a really nice Home and we’ll come to visit you every weekend. We promise.”
The Creator did great, nay, fabulous work when He did Women, but Jeeze Louise, Male Parts were not His best: The design is merely functional, like sex organs designed by Ikea. It’s part of a system, but you can’t make sense of the instructions and the illustrations are cartoon sketches. Women however, ahh, now that’s a Herman Miller Aero chair.
There are enough maladies that can befall the prostate that entire medical careers have been built on them. It’s a very poor design, almost as bad as the knee, but at least the knee will stop working or swell up if you injure it. The prostate just sits there like a walnut, asking itself “Am I Coming or am I Going?”
There are two ways to check the prostate and you need both. The first is what is called a Prostate Specific Antigen test, which is a blood test, taken from blood from your arm. The lab rats look for an increased level of Prostate antigen, a chemical that indicates a fine, healthy, happy, prostate or an unhappy prostate depending on the change between tests.
Around the age of 40 to 45, men should have a PSA test yearly. Some docs say 50, other say 40, but what you want to do is start early enough that you know what your PSA level is over a few years. Mine’s normal, like 0.01, and has been since I was 40, which indicates no issues with increased antigen production, which would indicate something wrong if the number changes. The PSA test is an early warning, nothing more.
Up until last year, you had to pay separately for a PSA when you had your usual blood work done. It was $15 most years. I consider it money well spent. Now most health care covers it, so ask for it. If the numbers change, see a doctor right away. A change in the PSA is an early warning that something is not right. It hurts as much as having your blood taken hurts. Instead of four vials, they’ll take five. No biggie.
There are issues with the PSA test, both false positives and false negatives. There are also issues with, in the female department, PAP tests, again false positives and false negatives. In either case, having a baseline is part of early detection. It isn’t a diagnosis, it just flags something for more investigation.
The other way to check the prostate is a digital exam. That’s right digit, as in finger, not zeros and ones digital. Your doctor will insert a gloved and well-lubricated finger in your asshole and palpate your prostate with a digit to check for inflammation, something swollen or out of whack.
If you have a swollen prostate you will scream like a little girl. The sensation of having the prostate digitally examined is no worse that taking a five-pound dump after a night of bad Mexican food. It’s no fun, but it’s over soon enough and feels much better when finished.
A good, caring doc will have you lie on one side and have you bring one knee up to your chest. An army-trained doctor will have you bend over the examining table and say “Hang on to your hat!” I’ve had both and the knee up is much better.
Yes you might spring a Hollywood half-loaf totally without intention. Pressure on the prostate can trigger a drop or two of urine, or a mild, momentary erection, no worse than a morning piss-hard and no more useful either. The prostate is covered with the very same pelvic floor muscles that contract when you have an orgasm and cause you to ejaculate by giving the prostate a good hard squeeze. It’s perfectly normal as the systems are all interrelated. Or, absolutely nothing will happen: It varies from human to human.
Odds are 50-50 you’ll fart too. I asked and my doc and she said she’s been farted at so many times doing prostate exams that it’s now beyond disgusting and merely funny. No, it is not appropriate to load up on jalapeno nachos, cabbage soup, beer and beans the night before your prostate exam.
In either case, a digital prostate exam does not make you suddenly want to sing show tunes, or find the beauty in old Judy Garland movies. Sorry guys, it doesn’t. It’s not a comfortable sensation for many men, but it is insanely important to have done. The prostate doesn’t give many clues that it is unwell and a PSA in combination with a digital exam is the best way to determine your prostate health.
To sum up. Your prostate helps keep your participation in the fornicative and procreative arts alive. It doesn’t kick up a fuss when it is unwell, so there are no symptoms to speak of. A PSA blood test in combination with a digital examination is the best way to find out if things are in good order.
As we all know, early detection means a much better chance at survival and the prostate is notorious for not kicking up a fuss until it’s almost too late.
If you want to learn more, www.movember.com has links to Prostate Cancer Canada and several dozen other very good resources.