Propecia (finasteride) is a drug advertised to help with baldness and prostate enlargement, a condition known as benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH).
What Is Prostate Enlargement (BPH)
BPH is an outgrowth of cells in the prostate resulting in an enlarging of the organ overall. The main symptom is usually a constriction of the urethra which prevents proper urinary flow. This can lead to long-term conditions and urinary tract infections if left untreated.
The typical treatment for benign prostate hypertrophy is normally lifestyle alteration such as abstinence from fluid intake before bedtime. Pharmacological intervention is available, as well. Propecia is the most commonly-prescribed drug to treat this condition.
Propecia works by inhibiting an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase to prevent production of a hormone that results in enlargement of the prostate. Side effects include sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and loss of libido.
Propecia Linked To High-Grade Prostate Cancer
In 2011 the FDA updated the label for all 5-alpha reductase drugs, including Propecia, warning about the increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer.
The presence of elevated prostate-specific antigen is also an alarming side effect of Propecia. Detection of this protein is used to screen for prostate cancer in men. Its elevation, therefore, would present a risk of false positive identification. Misdiagnosis could lead to lowered caution for the patient in the future, so if prostate cancer emerges, it would be difficult to detect over the background of heightened prostate-specific antigen.
The potential risk of using Propecia become greater over long-term treatment. This is alarming given that it is designed specifically to treat chronic and permanent conditions. Men can reduce their risk by participating in regular screening and letting all doctors know that they are taking Propecia.[hr]
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