What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland of the male urinary and reproductive system a little larger than a walnut. It is located between the bladder and the penis, behind the intestine, with the urethra running through it.
What does the prostate do?
The main function of the prostate is to produce prostatic fluid, which is then secreted into the urethra. The prostatic fluid is part of semen along with seminal vesicle fluid and spermatozoa. Prostatic fluid contains the necessary elements to extend the lifespan of sperm. The muscles of the prostate help to create the force needed to expel semen during ejaculation.
The prostate is also responsible for controlling the urine stream via muscle contraction around the urethra, which carries urine from the bladder to the penis. It is therefore able to decrease or interrupt the urine stream.
What conditions can affect the prostate?
Men can be affected by several conditions of the prostate:
- Prostatitis – inflammation of the prostate. This can be caused by infection.
- Benign prostate enlargement/benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – growth of the prostate with age can affect urination and cause other symptoms.
- Prostate cancer – the most common cancer in men, but also very treatable, with a high survival rate.
Prostatitis usually affects younger men, while other conditions are more common in adults and in the elderly.
How can such conditions be treated?
Treatment will vary according to the specific condition:
- Prostatitis may be treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications, and the patient may have to follow a specific diet (focusing on making sure they get enough nutrients and liquids).
- Benign prostate enlargement may be treated with α1-blockers, which relax the muscles around the urethra and 5α-reductase inhibitors, which will inhibit the transformation of testosterone. If medication is ineffective, there are also surgical options.
- Prostate cancer may be treated in a number of different ways, depending on the nature of the cancer and the patient’s choice. Some may choose to wait and observe to see if the cancer is growing. Others may opt for chemotherapy, radiotherapy, prostate brachytherapy, hormone therapy or surgery to remove part or all of the prostate (prostatectomy). The doctor might also recommend a combination of these treatments to ensure the cancer is eradicated.
Which doctor should I see?
You should see a specialised urologist.