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November 28, 2023

Prostate Symptoms Men Should Not Ignore

ThedaCare Provider Says Men Can Talk with Care Teams about Regular Screenings

Prostate health can be one of those topics that is difficult to talk about, or even think about. It is important to always talk to your provider if you have any concerning symptoms to help treat any serious problems early.

“As men get older, it’s common for the prostate gland to enlarge,” said Andrew Maes, D.O., a Urology Specialist at ThedaCare Medical Center–Berlin. “One sign this might be happening is that you need to use the bathroom at night more often, or you might have a harder time starting urination.”

The prostate is a gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It is about the size of a walnut and it sits below the bladder, which is why it can cause problems with urination if it enlarges. In that case, patients also might feel a more frequent or urgent need to urinate, and they might have a urine stream that starts and stops, or is rather weak generally.

“These symptoms are more than annoying, they can also cause problems with the bladder, urinary tract or kidneys, and it can create uncomfortable problems such as blocked urinary flow,” Dr. Maes said. “That’s why you should see your provider if you begin to notice these changes.”

Without treatment, symptoms will worsen over time. An enlarged prostate can cause infections of the urinary tract or bladder, can create a sudden inability to urinate, or lead to kidney damage.

“When you visit your physician, a few things will take place,” he said. “We will perform a digital rectal exam to check the size of your prostate. We also will send a urine sample to the lab to rule out any infections that can cause similar health problems.”

Your provider also will conduct a blood test to check your prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level, which can increase when you have an enlarged prostate. PSA levels also can rise when you have an infection, had a recent surgery, or have prostate cancer.

“For an enlarged prostate, generally medication is often the first treatment option,” said Dr. Maes. “Prescription medication can relax the muscles around the neck of the bladder, as well as the muscle fibers in the prostate.”

Medication also can also help shrink the size of the prostate. If medication is not effective, or if you already have severe symptoms, another option is minimally invasive surgery.

What to Know about Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. It is normally contained to the prostate gland and grows slowly, though some forms can be aggressive and spread to other parts of the body.

While screening can pose the risk of overdiagnosis and treatment of a cancer that may not become deadly, men who have a history of cancer in their families may want to get regular screenings. The American Cancer Society recommends men talk with their provider and make decisions about screening based on the available information, and their understanding of the risks and benefits.

The organization offers the following recommendations about when to begin screenings: 

  • Age 50 for those who are expected to live at least 10 more years and have average risk of prostate cancer.
  • Age 45 for men at high risk, which includes those with a father or brother who were diagnosed with prostate cancer younger than age 65, and Black and African-American men, who have a higher risk of developing an aggressive type of prostate cancer.
  • Age 40 for those males who have had more than one first-degree relative with prostate cancer younger than age 65.

“Always discuss your family history with your provider,” Dr. Maes said. “Other types of cancers in your family, including breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer, can mean you are also at higher risk for prostate cancer.”

Decisions about screening should continue as a man’s health status evolves over the years.

Early detection can allow for better treatment outcomes for aggressive prostate cancer and for the option to monitor a slower-growing cancer.

“If you are having any symptoms of enlarged prostate, it’s important to be examined because prostate cancer symptoms are similar,” he said.

Other symptoms that may indicate prostate cancer include:

  • Blood in the semen
  • Pelvic discomfort
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Bone pain

You should immediately see your provider if you have any of these symptoms. If a PSA test and digital rectal exam indicate the possible presence of prostate cancer, your physician will schedule an ultrasound to take a closer look at the prostate.

“The good news is that there are treatment options available,” he said. “Prostate cancer may be treated with surgery, radiation, or hormone therapy, which can decrease the amount of testosterone in the body and either shrink or slow the growth of tumors.”

Dr. Maes also noted that depending on the size and location of the prostate cancer, treatment may not be necessary. In that case, the patient would be monitored with regular blood tests and rectal exams to follow the progression of the cancer. Further treatments may be recommended if tests show the cancer to be growing.

“We want to encourage men to talk with their providers if they are experiencing any symptoms of an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer,” said Dr. Maes. “Our care teams are here to talk through any concerns men might have, and empower them with information to feel confident about their health.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 650,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 providers and team members. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.