What does a urologist actually do?
A lot of people come to their doctor with urologic health problem. For example women with bladder infections or incontinence, or men with impotence or problems passing urine as well as boys having narrow foreskin or bedwetting. Most general practitioners have a vast experience in frequent urological problems. In most cases it is best to go to the general practitioner first, more so because he/she often has a pretty good view on what is going on in the patients family; a lot of diseases, like impotence or bedwetting, can be caused or made worse by social of psychological problems, which may not become all that clear when visiting a (stranger-) urologist. If the disease shows to be difficult to treat, in case of a more complicated or less frequent urological problem or when an operation seems inevitable, the general practitioner can refer the patient to a urologist. A urologist is usually working from within a hospital. Often the patient will have a choice between several hospitals and/or several urologists, although most general practitioners deal with only one or two urologists, with whom he/she is familiar. After the first visit and physical examination, the urologist usually will plan additional examinations (blood/urine tests, X-rays, cystoscopy of the bladder) in order to find out what is wrong with the patient.
After a diagnosis is reached, a treatment plan must be drawn. The urologist will then discuss the possibilities with the patient. Often, no treatment is necessary because the disease is minor and harmless or will be cured with time alone. Some people, especially men with prostate problems, seem to think that urologists start to think about an operation right after they have set foot in the urologic office; this is not the case. Nowadays, fortunately, there are simple solutions or medicines to cure many urologic disorders. Unfortunately, there are still diseases that can only be cured using the surgeons, i.e. urologists, knife. Again fortunately, the knife isn't the same as it used to be twenty years ago, so that in a lot of cases only a relatively small operation is necessary.
A malignant tumor (cancer) can often be cured if it is discovered in an early stage of the disease. This holds true for cancer of kidney, bladder, prostate, penis and testicle. With some types of cancer it makes sense to try to detect them in their early stages, i.e. screening. Although it is often impossible to prevent cancer, in some cases it might be possible to find it in an early stage, when it is still curable. In several parts of the world doctors are trying to find out if such a screening is a realistic possibility. Because of the huge amount of money screening takes, it must also be a financial reality. Screening can also be useful for non-malignant diseases. Elsewhere on the Urology Page men can 'screen themselves' for urinary voiding problems using a questionnaire. Some men seem to think that passing urine takes more time when you're older and only visit their doctor when they don't pass urine at all anymore and they've already damaged their bladder and kidney by waiting. Another advantage of a visit to the doctor is that your doctor can perform a rectal exam to find out if there is prostatic cancer.