More than cancer: the different types of urological conditions
1 in 2 people will be affected by a urological condition at some point in their life, so why aren’t we talking more about urology?
As part of Urology Awareness Month we’re raising awareness of urological conditions, especially those that can be difficult to talk about. Urological conditions and cancers are all related to the urogenital system, which includes your urinary tract system and reproductive organs in men, and the social taboo surrounding these areas of the body can make it challenging for people to share their experiences.
The urinary tract system is made up of the bladder, kidneys, ureters and urethra – the areas of the body that are responsible for storing and releasing urine – and men’s reproductive organs include the testes and penis. The prostate is also part of a man’s urogenital system as it plays a part in both his sexual functions and urinary system. This September, our aim is to support Urology Awareness Month by helping to increase awareness of, and break some of the taboos surrounding, urological conditions like prostate cancer, bladder cancer, incontinence and erectile dysfunction by sharing some insight into these conditions.
The prostate is a gland that surrounds the urethra of a man and sits just below the bladder. Its main role is to help produce and liquidise semen. Non-binary people and trans people who were assigned male when they were born will also have a prostate and so can be affected by prostate conditions. Common prostate conditions include prostate cancer, prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) otherwise known as an enlarged prostate.
“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men throughout the UK: approximately 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer at some point in their life.”
Prostate cancer is the name for when abnormal cells start to grow in the prostate gland. There is no certain cause but there are risk factors that can increase the likelihood of getting prostate cancer, including older age, having a family history of prostate cancer and being of black ethnicity. There are different types and stages of prostate cancer which will affect the impact the cancer can have on each person. Although prostate cancer can be terminal in later stages there are many men living with or surviving prostate cancer.
All men over the age of 50, and black men or those with a family history of prostate cancer who are over the age of 45 are advised to talk to their GP about their risk of prostate cancer. As with all cancers, promoting awareness of the condition and encouraging men to speak up about their risks and own experiences is of paramount importance and helps to break any taboo surrounding the condition.
Prostate Cancer UK, The Urology Foundation, Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK are some of the leading charities that offer a range of information, advice and support about prostate cancer. Visit their websites to find out more.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
“BPH is a common condition in men over 50.”
BPH may also be referred to as an enlarged prostate or benign prostatic enlargement (BPE). Some men with an enlarged prostate may not have any symptoms but, for others, the growth can put pressure on areas of the body, including the bladder and urethra, and cause difficulties when urinating.
Although it is not a life-threatening condition it can affect daily life, especially if it changes how often or how much you pass urine. There are different treatments available, from lifestyle changes to surgeries, which help reduce the symptoms of, and size of, a prostate enlargement. There are also products available, such as Abri-Man Formula Incontinence Pads, which are specifically shaped for men’s comfort and designed for daily use to give them confidence of zero urinary leakage during their daily routine.
As well as offering information about prostate cancer, Prostate Cancer UK also supply help and information about BPH and general information about the prostate to help men understand other conditions that can affect them.
The bladder is part of our urinary tract system and its main role is to store urine until it is released through the urethra tube. If working correctly, we can control when the bladder holds and releases urine and therefore choose when to urinate. Urological conditions that affect the bladder include bladder cancer, interstitial cystitis, urinary tract infections and urinary incontinence.
“In the UK, approximately 10,200 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year. It is the 8th most common cancer in men and the 10th most common cancer in the UK."
Bladder cancer begins in the lining of the bladder. Although there is no direct cause, there are factors that can increase your risk of developing bladder cancer including smoking, previous bladder infections, long exposure to chemicals and a family history of bladder cancer. The most common symptom is blood in your urine, as well as other changes when urinating such as urinating more frequently and pain when urinating.
Bladder cancer is more common in men than women. There are different types and stages of bladder cancer, so treatment, daily life and prognosis can vary greatly.
“Incontinence is a common condition that affects millions of people in the UK and across the world” – NHS
Incontinence is the general term used when someone is unable to control their bladder and experiences urine leaks. There are different types of incontinence:
- Stress incontinence – if you have stress incontinence you may experience urine leaks from bladder pressure which is usually caused by weakening of muscles, especially pelvic floor muscles
- Urge incontinence – urine leaks may occur when you feel a sudden and strong urge to urinate
- Overflow incontinence – overflow incontinence is when you are unable to empty your bladder completely. This is typically caused by a blockage within, or leading to, your bladder that means you can’t empty it properly when you urinate
- Total incontinence – total incontinence is when you are unable to store urine in your bladder, so it automatically passes through into your urethra tube and you experience regular leaking
Although it’s often associated with older people, incontinence is not a natural part of ageing and it can also be caused by factors including pregnancy, giving birth and obesity.
Incontinence symptoms can often be treated or improved using a number of methods. Simple changes to your lifestyle, such as cutting down on caffeine and alcoholic drinks, can help some people to reduce their symptoms of incontinence. Pelvic floor strengthening exercises and bladder control training can also help you to regain better control over your bladder in some cases. Whilst medical treatments and surgery are options, they are usually considered at later stages or if you have difficulty managing your incontinence symptoms.
There are many products available to help you manage incontinence, including pants & pads, monitors and furniture protectors. Many of these are discreetly designed to protect your underwear, clothes and furniture from leaks.
If you’re unsure which incontinence product is best for you, take a look at our Incontinence Product Buying Guide to discover the different options available and find lots of tips on how to ensure full coverage from leaks. Once you’re sure what you’re looking for, feel free to check out our full range of incontinence products.
Most people are born with two working kidneys, two bean shaped organs that are vital to our health and survival. The main role of the kidneys is to filter blood and remove any waste products through to the bladder, but they also help to stabilise blood pressure and salt levels and produce hormones for strength and immunity. Kidney conditions include kidney stones, chronic kidney disease, kidney failure, kidney cancer and nephrotic syndrome.
“Around 1 in 10 people will be affected by kidney stones at some point in their life.”
Kidney stones can grow in one or both kidneys and can also occur in the ureter. A kidney stone is formed by the waste products in the kidneys. Although small kidney stones may pass in your urine without you noticing, larger kidney stones can cause abdominal pain, nausea and, if left untreated, can lead to further complications in your urinary system. Kidney stones are often formed from a build-up of concentrated waste, so keeping hydrated daily is one way that kidney stones can be avoided. If kidney stones become recurrent, it may lead to a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease, which you can learn more about on our conditions page.
Male reproductive organs
Men’s reproductive organs include the testes and the penis, which exist to create sperm. The reproductive organs can be affected by conditions such as erectile dysfunction, that aren’t life threatening but can be difficult for men to talk about and manage, as well as cancers including testicular and penile cancer.
“Erectile dysfunction is more common as men get older, especially in men over 40. However, there are cases where younger men can experience ED.”
Erectile dysfunction is when a man regularly experiences an inability to maintain an erection, especially during, or as part of, sexual activity. It is quite a common condition that largely affects older men and the cause can be psychological, physical or a combination of both. Erection difficulties can sometimes happen and often do not persist, but it is important to see your doctor if they do continue.
Tests can be done to try and find the cause of the problem and treatments, including medication, can be prescribed to improve erectile dysfunction. Some men can find it difficult to discuss erectile dysfunction, as they may see it as tainting their masculinity.
“Almost all early stages of testicular cancer can be cured when they are detected early.”
Testicular cancer is quite a rare cancer but it is unique in that it is more common in younger men. From the age of 15 men are encouraged to check their testes for lumps and swellings (a common sign of testicular cancer) as it can be cured if detected in its early stages. Lumps in the testes should always be checked out or discussed with your GP, but do not always indicate testicular cancer.
Every year the men’s health campaign, Movember, runs throughout the month of November to encourage men to grow moustaches (and sometimes beards) to raise awareness of men’s health conditions, such as prostate and testicular cancer. It is a popular and ever-growing campaign that gets men and women talking about conditions that can be life threatening for both younger and older men across the country. Find out more on the Movember website.
Key facts and stats on male and female urology
We hope that we can encourage more people to keep talking about urological conditions this September and support those who are, or have been, affected by them. Although there is a great deal of advice and information online, it is always vital to visit your GP if you are displaying any symptoms that are concerning you.
We will also be sharing what some of the more common acronyms used by urology professionals stand for on our social channels, to help people better understand urological terms. Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook or follow our Pinterest Board to keep up to date with our urology content throughout September.
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- April 2nd 2019