What Are … 5-ARIs?
Interesting question ... and chances are pretty good that most folks are not familiar with the term 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors (5-ARIs). That said, you might be more familiar with names like Dutasteride (Avodart) or Finasteride (Proscar). Traditionally these drugs have been used to treat men suffering from benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). That is a very fancy way to say “an enlarged prostate.”
Doctors are not exactly sure what causes the gradual growth of the prostate gland in men after the age of 25; it just happens. Some suggest it may have something to do with normal hormonal changes as men age. Unfortunately there is nothing you can to do to prevent it.1
When it can become a problem
Prostate enlargement can become a problem if it restricts or stops urine flow. And of course it only happens to some men – not others. Why? Again, no one knows. If the enlargement is creating a weak stream or dribbling after urinating, the increasing size of a prostate can lead to serious issues and infections.
Some men who are experiencing a weak flow or are having issues starting a stream independently decide to self-medicate with over-the-counter solutions, presuming they are suffering from BPH. In reality, they may be facing undetected or early-stage prostate cancer.
Takeaways from a study
A recent article in the World Journal of Urology reported on a study of 361 men, of which 119 were users of some form of 5-ARIs. The remaining (242) were not. The study reported that a larger number of men who were being treated were more likely to remain free of cancer progression for 5 to 10 years, vs the group who were not.2
What can we take away from this?
Sharing my concerns with the doctor
If a man is having issues with urine flow, he can visit with his MD and describe what is going on. Early on, as my "fire hose flow" slowly turned itself into a drip irrigation system, I began to take some of the advertised over-the-counter products and natural supplements.
After my efforts failed, I relented and mentioned it to my MD, who immediately prescribed Avodart and suggested a digital every 6 months. Yes, he suggested the dreaded digital – exactly why I, like so many men, did not want to mention my concerns.
After 2 years of a continued slow-rising PSA combined with little improvement in flow, my MD suggested I might want to visit with a urologist. Soon after, I was diagnosed with an aggressive but still confined prostate cancer.
Considering recent developments, I think it is quite possible that my use of 5-ARIs unknowingly slowed the progression of my undiagnosed aggressive cancer. Had I continued to use an over-the-counter solution vs seeking a prescription drug, I think my outcome may have been a lot worse.
If a man finds himself as a proud new owner of a “drip irrigation” system, I think it may be good to speak with an MD about 5-ARIs. Then it may be good to pay a visit to a urologist for a digital exam, as they can often find irregularities missed by a GP.
Doing so might save your life, and if nothing else … one of the (5-ARIs) might return your reluctant super soaker to "factory new" condition.
Have you made personal connections through your journey with prostate cancer?