Prostate

Prostate

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis. The prostate is just in front of the rectum. The urethra runs through the center of the prostate, from the bladder to the penis, letting urine flow out of the body.

 

The prostate secretes fluid that nourishes and protects sperm. During ejaculation, the prostate squeezes this fluid into the urethra, and it’s expelled with sperm as semen.

The vasa deferentia (singular: vas deferens) bring sperm from the testes to the seminal vesicles. The seminal vesicles contribute fluid to semen during ejaculation.

Prostate Conditions

  • Prostatitis: Inflammation of the prostate, sometimes caused by infection. It is typically treated with antibiotics.
  • Enlarged prostate: Called benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH, prostate growth affects virtually all men over 50. Symptoms of difficult urination tend to increase with age. Medicines or surgery can treat BPH.
  • Prostate cancer: It’s the most common form of cancer in men (besides skin cancer), but only one in 41 men die from prostate cancer. Surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy can be used to treat prostate cancer. Some men choose to delay treatment, which is called watchful waiting.

Prostate Tests

  • Digital rectal examination (DRE): A doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum and feels the prostate. A DRE can sometimes detect an enlarged prostate, lumps or nodules of prostate cancer, or tenderness from prostatitis.
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA): The prostate makes a protein called PSA, which can be measured by a blood test. If PSA is high, prostate cancer is more likely, but an enlarged prostate can also cause a high PSA. Recommendations about whether or not a man should be screened and at what age differ. Talk with your doctor about whether you need testing and the potential benefits and risks. 
  • Prostate ultrasound (transrectal ultrasound): An ultrasound probe is inserted into the rectum, bringing it close to the prostate. Ultrasound is often done with a biopsy to test for prostate cancer.
  • Prostate biopsy: A needle is inserted into the prostate to take tissue out to check for prostate cancer. This is usually done through the rectum.

Common Problems

Here are some examples of non-cancer prostate problems:

Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, is very common in older men. It means your prostate is enlarged but not cancerous. Treatments for BPH include:

Acute bacterial prostatitis usually starts suddenly from a bacterial infection. See your doctor right away if you have fever, chills, or pain in addition to prostate symptoms. Most cases can be cured with antibiotics. You also may need medication to help with pain or discomfort.

Chronic bacterial prostatitis is an infection that comes back again and again. This rare problem can be hard to treat. Sometimes, taking antibiotics for a long time may work. Talk with your doctor about other things you can do to help you feel better.

Chronic prostatitis, also called chronic pelvic pain syndrome, is a common prostate problem. It can cause pain in the lower back, in the groin, or at the tip of the penis. Treatment may require a combination of medicines, surgery, and lifestyle changes.

Be sure to talk with your doctor about the possible side effects of treatment.

Prostate Cancer:

    • Age. Men age 50 and older run a greater risk.
    • Race. Prostate cancer is most common among African American men, followed by Hispanic and Native American men. Asian American men have the lowest rates of prostate cancer.
    • Family history. If your father or brother had prostate cancer, you are more likely to develop it, too.
    • Diet. The risk of prostate cancer may be higher for men who eat high-fat diets.