Ever wondered what the prostate gland is, where it is and what it does? Do you or someone you know think there might be a problem with the prostate but are not quite sure what this means, what the symptoms are and what to do about it? A recent UK survey found that more than half of men aged over 55 were unaware of the main symptoms of prostate problems. If you don’t know what it is, where it is or what it does, you’re certainly not alone so read on!
Only men have a prostate. When born, the prostate starts out about the size of a pea then slowly grows to the size of a walnut, until the man is in his twenties. Around the age of forty, the prostate starts to grow or enlarge again and this may cause problems for the man when passing urine.
Listen to an audio of Professor Alan McNeill talking about the prostate and prostate conditions
Where is it?
The prostate is:
- Inside the pelvis, just below the bladder and in front of the back passage
- It wraps around the tube, called the urethra (often known as the water-pipe) which allows urine to flow out of the bladder and semen to pass out through the penis
- It is covered with a special layer called the prostate capsule
- The nerves that are responsible for a man getting and maintaining an erection lie very close to the prostate
What does it do?
The prostate is part of the man’s reproductive system. The seminal vesicles lie above the prostate, behind the bladder and in front of the back passage. They supply and store a thick clear fluid that mixes with sperm to form semen, called the ejaculate. This fluid empties from the seminal vesicles by a tube into the part of the urethra that is inside the prostate.
The prostate also makes Prostate Specific Antigen or PSA. PSA is a protein that makes semen more fluid and so helps sperm swim more easily.
What can go wrong with it?
There are 3 diseases that can affect the prostate:
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
As a man ages, changes naturally occur in his body, one of which is the prostate getting bigger or enlarging. When this starts to cause problems for the man in passing urine or not being able to pass urine it is called BPH (or sometimes BPE, benign prostatic enlargement).
Prostatitis is the most common prostate problem for men under 50. It can affect men of all ages with the most common age group being between 30 and 50. Prostatitis is often described as an infection of the prostate but it can also mean that the prostate is inflamed or irritated.
Prostate cancer is now the most common cancer for men in Scotland and 1 in 10 men may develop prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer occurs when then cells in the prostate develop abnormalities, multiply and grow faster than normal. This causes a growth or tumour. As the prostate is inside the body, this growth can’t be seen and in the early stages often causes no symptoms.
Prostate cancer may be:
- Early or localised; when the cancer is still within the prostate and has not spread
- Locally advanced; when the cancer has spread just outside the prostate through the capsule (cover) or into the seminal vesicles
- Advanced; when the cancer has spread away from the prostate through the bloodstream or lymph channels. On reaching new site(s) the cancer cells may start to grow causing a new cancer growth
How do you know when something might be wrong with the prostate?
Not all men will show all the symptoms and some symptoms may be more troublesome than others. Common symptoms include:
|Hesitancy||Standing waiting before urine starts to flow|
|Frequency||Passing urine more often than before|
|Intermittent stream||Stopping and starting when passing urine|
|Straining||Having to push to get urine starting to flow|
|Weak or poor stream||Weak, dribbly flow of urine and taking longer to empty the bladder|
|Dribbling||After you think you’re finished a little more urine dribbles out and you have no control over this|
|Urgency||Having to get the toilet fast and not being able to wait|
|Nocturia||Having to pass urine several times during the night|
In addition to the above prostatitis can also have the following symptoms:
- Body aches
- Feeling unwell
- Pain in genital area
- In the early stages, there are often no symptoms at all
- Blood in urine or semen
- Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs
- Unexplained weight loss
What can you do to help yourself to prostate health?
You might want to start thinking about what is meant by healthier lifestyle choices that you may like to consider for your prostate health and in fact your general health and well-being. Lifestyle choices are more than just about the food you eat – it’s also about exercise, weight, alcohol and smoking.
Generally doctors agree that men with an average risk of prostate disease and prostate cancer should try to make choices that benefit their overall health by choosing healthier foods, taking regular exercise, stopping smoking and keeping alcohol within recommended guidelines.
At the moment there is no sure way or quick fix miracle nutrient, supplement or diet to prevent prostate disease or prostate cancer and it may be a case of considering changing your whole way of eating and choosing healthier foods. Involving the whole family in making healthier food choices may make it easier and may benefit their general health and well-being.
Please click to find out more about healthier lifestyle choices.