Is Your Man Going Through Menopause?

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AP
It's no secret that women of a certain age go through menopause, but a new school of controversial medical thought says that men go through the change as well.

Male menopause, or "andropause" as it is commonly known, can be treated,like its female equivalent, with hormone replacement therapy. Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, a Boston urologist who treats patients with andropause, visits The Early Show to discuss it.

"Testosterone levels go down in men as they get older," Morgentaler explains. "Andropause is a term that applies to men in their late 40s and early 50s and beyond, where testosterone levels seem to decline, causing a variety of symptoms that include less strength, poor sexual functioning, muscle weakness, sometimes a depressed mood and lower bone destiny."

Men who have those symptoms need to have the condition confirmed with a blood test. There are two main methods of treatment: "The gold standard has been a shot in the backside that men get every two weeks or so, and more recently there's a gel you can rub into your skin once a day," Morgentaler says.

Though testosterone is not going to cure all the symptoms of aging, it may be worth a try, he adds.

"It's not a panacea, and it's not something that reverses the aging process. Hormones do have wide effects; the same is true of thyroid hormone. A lot of people when they get testosterone do get better, often they will, but we don't give this in order to make men feel 25 years younger," he says.

What to lookout for:

The main concern is someone who has a history of prostate cancer, says Dr. Morgentaler. "The relationship between hormones and prostate cancer is complex, but testosterone can act as a food for the cancer. We evaluate the prostate as well as possible before prescribing the treatment, sometimes even doing biopsies of the prostate when necessary," he says.

As for the thought that men with higher levels of testosterone have more cancer, Dr. Morgentaler says it is not true and notes that the purpose of the treatment is to make men feel better. "We're not trying to make supermen out of anybody," he says.

Critics are concerned that an increase in testosterone therapy is going to result in a prostate cancer epidemic. Morgentaler says this is silly.

"It's the nature of many doctors to worry about things, but that doesn't mean all these worries are justified. Testosterone has been around as a treatment for 40 years. There are numerous studies, and not a single one shows an increase in prostate cancer for men who are treated," he says.

And while drug manufacturers may advertise in all sorts of ways to boost sales, Morgentaler notes it is up to the doctors to suggest and prescribe things in a reasonable manner.

"All medical treatments do entail some risks. Men who are taking testosterone do need to have the supervision of a medical doctor, and they need to be monitored while they're on it once or twice a year for their prostate and their blood counts," he says. "Some men will do the therapy for a few months and feel they have the benefits and stop; others need to be on it for life."