Dr. Mehran Movassaghi, Director of Men's Health Center at Providence Saint John’s, has an informed perspective on how Urolift, an emerging technology for treating an enlarged prostate, is changing lives.
More than 50 percent of men underutilize health care. While many different factors contribute to this statistic, men are more likely to ignore warning signs and symptoms until they begin to affect their quality of life. We sat down with Dr. Movassaghi to gain some insights and gather some tips to help men better understand the importance of listening to their bodies.
Q. Tell us about your role as director of the Men’s Health Center at Providence Saint John’s.
A. Absolutely, but first I’d like to give you a little background on the Men’s Health Center. Prior to my joining Saint John’s, there wasn’t a specific men’s health program in place. I have been fortunate enough to build a program focused specifically on men’s health issues, which has fulfilled me both professionally and personally.
My role as the director of the Men’s Health Center is to consider, and often diagnose, the underlying cause of certain urologic conditions. To do this, I examine my patient from a holistic perspective, so I can diagnose potentially life-threatening issues and treat the source rather than just the symptoms.
Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A. That’s easy. Most of the patients I see are either very uncomfortable or in a lot of pain, so every time I can eliminate these symptoms I feel good knowing I’ve just changed a life for the better. It’s very rewarding to resolve not only the symptoms, but the underlying cause as well. The thing I love most about my job is telling my patients they are going to feel positive results immediately after treatment and watching sense of relief wash over them.
Q. How does benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or enlarged prostate affect a man’s everyday life?
A. Men who suffer from an enlarged prostate experience many frustrating, obstructive symptoms like a weakened urinary stream, difficulty starting to urinate, and a feeling of not adequately emptying the bladder. They may also experience symptoms like frequent urination, urgency, nocturia and urgent incontinence. The severity of the symptoms largely depends on how far the disease has progressed and actually, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) can be life-threatening if it is not treated.
Q. What is Urolift and how does this emerging technology benefit patients?
A. Urolift is a minimally-invasive, outpatient or in-office procedure that uses an implant to hold the prostate lobes apart. To give you an idea of what it looks like and how it works, imagine a piece of thread with a small safety pin attached to either end. These “safety pins” hold the prostate lobes apart, kind of like curtains on a window, and relieve compression. This allows urine to flow freely, and right now, it’s the only treatment available that opens the prostate lobes without affecting sexual health.
Q. What types of men are considered good Urolift candidates?
A. We typically look for men with obstructive symptoms, like a weakened urinary stream, difficulty starting to urinate, a feeling of not adequately emptying the bladder and a prostate that weighs less than 80 grams.
Q. How have you noticed Urolift improving men’s quality of life?
A. I have seen the life-changing effects of Urolift first-hand. One of my most recent patients was an 85-year-old male who I treated with a Urolift. He came to me with a crippled bladder and needed to self-catheterize throughout the day to empty his bladder. After the procedure, he returned home catheter-free. That was three months ago. Today he’s doing well and has remained catheter-free.
Q. Have you noticed a rise or decline in urological practices?
A. Yes, this is a big one for me. A 2012 report from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended against prostate-specific antigen (PSA)–based screening for prostate cancer for men in the U.S., regardless of age. Unfortunately, this caused a lot of confusion for health care providers and, as a result, many men did not get screened for prostate cancer. This contributed to a rise in men initially presenting with metastatic prostate cancer for the first time in over a decade.
Thankfully, the USPSTF has adjusted their recommendations since then. Now, they recommend that doctors inform all male patients aged 59 to 65 years about the potential benefits and harms of PSA–based screening for prostate cancer.
Q. What recommendations can you make to help men take better care of themselves?
A. The first thing I’d recommend is for all men to schedule an appointment with a primary care physician and start getting annual check-ups. Next, I’d encourage all men to get every age-appropriate scan and test available, this helps identify potential issues that may not be causing any symptoms–yet.
It is very important to listen to your body’s warning signs. Symptoms involving pain or discomfort are not normal and are often your first alert that something is wrong and needs medical attention. Don’t wait until your symptoms worsen or become intolerable.
For that favorite man (or men) in your life, encourage them to schedule their annual screenings. It's super important. If you or a loved one have experienced the benefits of Urolift, we'd love to hear from you in the comments below.