New perspectives on the prostate

The prostate – for many people it’s an organ mainly associated with cancer. In a new book researchers investigate not only how the prostate causes problems – but also various notions relating to the prostate. Because these, they argue, can also affect men’s health and quality of life.

ericka johnsonProfessor Ericka Johnson, one of the authors. Photo credit Anna NilsenProstate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, and the risk of being affected increases with age. In Sweden, every year some 10,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer.

But the prostate can be seen in other ways than the purely medical. The book Prostatan – det ständiga gisslet? (The prostate – the constant curse?) discusses the organ’s significance in areas including healthcare and society, as well as men’s sexuality and identity. In the various chapters, the authors investigate topics such as the sensitive prostate examination, the wait for the PSA test results, and the organ’s historical significance – ideas that still influence our view of the prostate.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, and the risk of being affected increases with age. In Sweden, every year some 10,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer.

But the prostate can be seen in other ways than the purely medical. The book The Prostate – A Constant Torment? discusses the organ’s significance in areas including healthcare and society, as well as men’s sexuality and identity. In the various chapters, the authors investigate topics such as the sensitive prostate examination, the wait for PSA test results, and the organ’s historical significance – ideas that influence our view of the prostate.

“The book is intended for men affected by prostate problems and those around them, but it aims to provide other perspectives than the medical”, says Ericka Johnson, professor at Linköping University and project manager for the book.

Public toilets in a new light

In one of the book’s chapters, Ericka Johnson describes how the changed prostate – aged or possibly even diseased – casts light on the shortage of public toilets. That there are not enough of them is something that many women are aware of, especially when they are pregnant or out with a child who needs a toilet. She interviewed men with prostate problems, who said that constantly having to keep track of the locations of toilets was a new experience, and a shocking insight.det ständiga gisslet

“Many men adjust their social habits for fear of not finding a toilet in time. Some stop taking part in activities they previously enjoyed. Public spaces should be built for the entire population, but in reality, they’re not”, says Ericka Johnson.

Another aspect of the problem of toilet availability is the men’s feeling of suddenly not being one of the “normal” people. Because surely, constantly being on the lookout for a toilet is not “normal”? But Ericka Johnson turns the issue on its head, arguing that you could see the search for toilets as architectural – not physical – incompetence. After all, it’s “normal” that our bodies age and change.

Being vulnerable

One theme that runs through the book is the various notions of manliness and masculinity. How a man should be and behave. For instance, he shouldn’t be in need of a toilet. And he should be tough and insensitive – despite cancer treatments.

But the prostate – Ericka Johnson stresses – is not just a source of problems. A healthy prostate is also a gland that can bring pleasure.

“The prostate is so much more than cancer, which we sometimes forget. It is important for reproduction – and even healthy!”

The book is based on two research projects financed by the Swedish Research Council. The other authors are: Maria Björkman (editor), Uppsala University, Elin Björk, Linköping University, Jelmer Brüggemann, Linköping University, Carina Danemalm Jägervall, Region Kronoberg, Jenny Gleisner, Linköping University, Sonja Jerak-Zuiderent, Linköping University, Oscar Javier Maldonado Castañeda, Universidad del Rosario, Colombia, and Alma Persson, Linköping University.

 

Book (in Swedish):

Prostatan – det ständiga gisslet? (2018). Maria Björkman (ed.) Nordic Academic Press. (English translation of the title: The Prostate – A Constant Torment? The man and the prostate in culture, medicine and history)

The Prostate Film

The film is a collaboration between the Linköping university research project 'A constant torment' with researcher Ericka Johnson and 'Stockholms Mansmottagning', a sexual health clinic for all men. Funding provided by the Swedish Research Council Grant and Linköping university

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