WE often hear the phrase “Ignorance is bliss”. It seems logical, as what you don’t know, cannot hurt you. It seems sensible, to avoid facing the real issues of life. It is a form of escapism that brings about the temporary comfort of denial. But how long can we bury our heads in the sands?
Where does the idiom come from? After digging deep, I discovered the eighteenth century English poet Thomas Gray, wrote the idealism of “bliss in ignorance” in a phrase. In his poem, On a Distant Prospect of Eaton”, Gray wrote:
“Where ignorance is bliss, T’s folly to be wise”
While this mentality of cluelessness and denial is may not be damaging in other fields,many are adopting such approaches even when it comes to health. The question is when it comes to health awareness, is the lack of knowledge acceptable? Once the truth is revealed, can someone still be happier being clueless?
I don’t agree with the idea that ignorance is bliss. In fact, I agree with Martin Luther King, Jr. who once said: “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” On that note, we explore the importance of prostate awareness. We highlight that being knowledge-savvy in the role and pathology of prostate will bring about empowerment in men. And more importantly, might even save lives.
Dear Dr. G,
My name is Mike. I am 65 years old.
I went to my doctor recently because I have been waking up at night to urinate. I also noted the urine flow to be weaker and causes dribbling at the end. I always thought it was a weak bladder.
The doctor told me this is related to my prostate. He said the prostate is getting bigger and causing the weak flow. He also mentioned about the enlarged prostate causing my occasional erectile failure. Well, I did mention occasional “softness” in my erection. Surely, that does not really constitute erectile dysfunction, right?
My doctor also scared me with the possibility of prostate cancer after examining my rectum. Can you please tell me what is prostate? What is the role of this organ?
Why is it causing bladder problems? Why is it associated with erectile dysfunction?
What should I do now?
Now I am scared and confused? I begin to think: “Ignorance is Bliss?”
The Charity, Prostate Cancer UK did a survey recently showing nearly one in five men (17%) did even know they have a prostate and that many men were blind to the risk of prostate cancer. In the same study, the researchers explored the knowledge of 1,900 British men and found 92% of men were clueless about the role of the prostatic gland, and the 54% of the same group of men were also uncertain of where the gland is located.
The charity was alarmed by the findings and highlighted the statistics of nearly 40,000 men in the UK who were diagnosed with prostate cancer last year and 11,000 men died of the disease. Such lack of awareness is believed to have an impact on men delaying cancer diagnosis and compromises the chances of cure.
In fact, the prostate is actually a simple gland with a simple role. The walnut-sized gland is located between the base of the bladder and the penis. It surrounds the penile urethra and permits the passage of urine and semen during ejaculation.
The function of the gland is solely the provision of secretion that is rich in nutrients for the sperm to survive. The prostate is “redundant” in men beyond the reproductive age (sigh!). Despite the redundancy, the prostate will continue to grow. Although the growth is predominantly benign in nature, cancerous changes can also occur in high-risk patients. As the prostatic gland is intricately connected to the urinary tract and erectile tissue, the enlargement of the gland will impede the flow of the urine.
This may result in slow start, intermittent urinary flow and residual urine upon completion. The left over urine in turn causes urinary frequency both in the day and night time.
Twenty percent of men presented with urinary symptoms will also have erectile dysfunction. Conversely, thirty percent of men presented with erectile dysfunction will also have concomitant prostate symptoms. The cause and effect of this association is difficult to establish; but the other condition can improve when one is treated.
Both the urinary symptoms and sexual dysfunction can also be caused by early cancer. Being “prostate” aware is of course important for men to be able to undergo tests and examinations to exclude malignancy. Early detection of cancer in men always ensures favorable outcomes.
In this history play, Henry VI, William Shakespeare described: “Ignorance is the curse of God, knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven”. Dr. G’s advice to men who are prostate naïve is that: “Health Ignorance is a curse of self destruction: Knowledge in health can prevent an early visit to heaven.”
Dr George Lee is a consultant Urologist and Clinical Associate Professor whose professional interest is in men’s health. The column “Ask Dr G” is a forum to help men debunk the myths and taboos on men’s issues that may be too “hard” to mention. You can send him questions at email@example.com