The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland that sits underneath a man’s bladder and wraps around the urethra. Prostate problems include infection, enlargement or cancer, but solutions and survival rates are improving.
The prostate gland’s main function is to add fluid to sperm to form semen. Although the prostate starts out small, it typically grows as a man ages. Prostate growth is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. Over time, BPH puts pressure on the urethra, leading to urinary problems.
Prostatitis is swelling of the prostate gland that is often caused by bacteria. The condition can come on quickly (acute prostatitis) and usually clears up with antibiotics. However, it can sometimes continue long term, in which case it’s called chronic prostatitis.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men, affecting 1 in 7 during their lifetime. Most prostate cancer cases are diagnosed later in life.
Prostate cancer can be found with a PSA test, which measures the level of a protein called prostate specific antigen (PSA) in a man’s blood. At one time, men over age 50 were advised to have a PSA test annually. Yet this test can often produce false positive results, because PSA levels can also rise from BPH and other non-cancerous prostate conditions. Today, cancer organizations recommend that men talk to their doctor about the benefits and risks before having this test.
Prostate cancer symptoms include trouble urinating, blood in the urine, pain in the back or hips, and difficulty getting or sustaining an erection. To diagnose prostate cancer, the doctor will remove a sample of tissue during a biopsy. Once that tissue is examined, doctors assign the prostate cancer a Gleason Score and a stage, which indicate the severity and progression of the disease.