PROTECT YOUR PACKAGE by Lara Potgieter

Thanks to the widespread success of the Movember movement, prostate cancer has finally become more commonly and comfortably included in today's lexicon. But what about erectile dysfunction, or testicular deficiency syndrome? Could we create a cultural phenomenon that sees men boasting hip facial hair in honour of these struggles?
DID YOU KNOW? According to urologist and men's health expert Dr. Neil Potgieter, erectile dysfunction and testicular deficiency syndrome are presenting far more commonly than may be reaching popular attention (for obvious reasons). While these have in many instances become highly stigmatised social affronts on masculinity, they are in fact rather common and often debilitating medical conditions, with the sexual complications often being the least worrying of the presenting concerns. While the most common cause of erectile dysfunction is ageing, Dr. Potgieter sees patients presenting with the issue from as early as age 40 (and even younger, from time to time). It can in fact be caused by anything from diabetes to high cholesterol, hypertension, testicular deficiency syndrome and a range of other health concerns that may appear unrelated to those of us not in-the-know. Testicular deficiency syndrome has become a relatively common concern, and men often don't even realise that they have it. While diminished sexual function and a loss of sexual desire are the more obvious alarm bells, lethargy, fatigue, depression, irritability, decreased intellectual activity and an increase in abdominal fat are all symptoms too. How you and your healthcare practitioner choose to address your lowered testosterone levels is up to you, but detecting the condition is the first step toward addressing the symptoms and, eventually, the underlying cause of the physical and psychological unease you may be experiencing.  Dr. Potgieter does suggest that, while prostate cancer is far more widely discussed than its more 'embarrassing' sibling conditions, an article on men's health would not be complete without making reference to it as it remains the number one presenting male health concern worldwide. As with all cancers, early detection is of paramount importance. Prostate cancer discovered in its early stages is in fact very amenable to treatment. According to Dr. Potgieter, 'Men over the age of 45 can really benefit from visiting a urologist for a full annual physical check-up.' While this examination does involve the rather excruciating sounding digital rectal examination and prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests, it could save you a lot of trouble in the long run. Although raised PSA levels can sometimes be caused by a very large prostate or a prostate infection, the PSA test is generally a particularly accurate indicator of prostate cancer. While the South African Urological Association recommends that men start going for their annual checks from the age of 45, it does also specify that black men, who have a slightly higher genetic predisposition to prostate cancer, could benefit from starting from the age of 40. This applies to men with a family history of prostate cancer too. If your PSA is persistently raised or the urologist feels a nodule, a prostate biopsy will be undertaken, after which the variety of treatment options (which range from the more traditional to the latest in robotics, focal therapy and more) can be explored. In terms of prevention, Dr. Potgieter references the various studies that claim that everything from a seafood-rich diet, red wine, coffee and the consumption of large amounts of lycopenes (found in tomatoes) to regular sexual intercourse or ejaculation are useful protective measures.  While he explains that these studies remain controversial, he does mention that there appears to be more conclusive evidence that avoiding animal fat and protein can be helpful in the prevention of prostate cancer and other testosterone-related concerns. Sacrifice the braai wors for the sake of your own wors? Sounds like a fair exchange.      

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