7 Things You Should Know About the Prostate and Prostate Health
(Read time: 8 minutes)
This article is not intended to replace professional medical care or advice. If you have any questions or need additional information, please talk with your doctor.
You might be wondering what the prostate is, how it functions, and the symptoms of prostate conditions.
1. Anatomy of the prostate
The prostate is a gland of the male reproductive and urinary systems located below the bladder and in front of the rectum.1 Its size is comparable to a walnut.1 As men age, the prostate tends to increase in size.1 While this enlarging of the prostate may be benign, it can affect prostate function over time and cause other symptoms that may disrupt your lifestyle.2
2. Function of the prostate
The prostate gland plays a role in the male reproductive system.2
In the reproductive system, the prostate produces the prostatic fluid contributing to semen, which helps transport sperm, and the muscles of the prostate propel this fluid through the urethra and out of the body during ejaculation. The prostatic fluid is important for helping sperm survive the journey towards an egg for reproduction.2
In the urinary system, the prostate sits between the bladder and the penis. The urethra, a tube that drains the bladder, runs through the middle of the prostate and then along the length of the penis. A healthy prostate does not affect the function of the urethra, but an enlarged or swollen prostate can compress the urethra or irritate the walls of the bladder, interfering with normal urination.2
3. Conditions that may affect the prostate
Acute prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate and can be caused by a bacterial infection. This condition is usually treated with antibiotics.2
Another condition is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), commonly referred to as an “enlarged prostate.” BPH is the most common prostate problem in men over 50 and occurs when the prostate grows.3 If this prostate growth puts pressure on the urethra, it can make it difficult to urinate or empty the bladder.2
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men, and about 1 in 8 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.4 While 1 in 41 men who are diagnosed will die from this disease, most men do not die from it.4 In fact, more than 3.1 million men in the U.S. diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive today.4Managing a prostate cancer diagnosis: Your next steps and options
4. Signs and symptoms
There are signs and symptoms that may indicate prostate problems. Some signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, which can also be symptoms of BPH, include:5
- Frequent urination
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- Blood in urine
- New onset of erectile dysfunction
- Discomfort when sitting due to enlarged prostate
- Pain or burning during urination
It’s important to note that with prostate cancer screenings, it’s possible to detect prostate cancer before symptoms appear.
Talk to a doctor if you’re experiencing bothersome symptoms. A doctor can diagnose the appropriate prostate condition and treatment as needed.
5. What genetics and age can mean for prostate cancer and BPH
Many factors play a role in prostate health and the likelihood of developing prostate conditions. Risk factors may include age, race/ethnicity, geography, family history, and genetics. For example, having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing this disease; although most prostate cancer occurs in men without a family history of it.6 Men may be more likely to develop BPH, or an enlarged prostate, if they have a family history of it.3
Age is a risk factor for prostate cancer and BPH. The average age of men at prostate cancer diagnosis is about 66.4 The chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50 — and over half of prostate cancer cases are found in men older than 65.6 For BPH, men over age 40 are more likely to develop the condition.3 In fact, 50% of men over age 60 are affected by BPH and the likelihood increases as men age.7
6. Ways to maintain prostate health
While genetics and age are risk factors beyond your control, there are certain things that may impact prostate health.
Regular exercise may be beneficial to prostate health. A recent study of 30,000 men found that men who were more physically active were less likely to develop BPH symptoms.8
Healthy eating may support overall health including prostate health. Experts recommend eating five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, limiting consumption of red meat, sugar, and salt, and choosing whole grains and healthy fats over less healthy ones, such as trans fats.8
7. Prostate treatment options and side effects
While there are conditions that can impact the health of your prostate, the good news is that there are treatments available.
There have been many advancements in treating prostate conditions, including BPH. Treatment options for BPH include, but are not limited to, medications, minimally invasive treatments and surgical procedures. One option is Rezūm™ Water Vapor Therapy, which uses the natural energy stored in water vapor, or steam, to shrink enlarged prostates. It is a minimally invasive procedure that can provide lasting relief from BPH symptoms without the side effects of prescription drugs.9 There’s also GreenLight™ Laser Therapy, a laser-based treatment proven to remove excess prostate tissue.10,11 Visit TreatMyBPH to learn about other BPH treatment options.
Treatment options for prostate cancer include, but are not limited to: active surveillance, surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, cryotherapy, and more.
Radiation treatment is one treatment for prostate cancer — and like certain other treatments, can come with side effects. Radiation therapy can create side effects when radiation irritates the rectum.12 SpaceOAR™ Hydrogel is a polyethylene glycol (PEG) based absorbable hydrogel that temporarily creates space between the prostate and rectum, designed to reduce the radiation dose delivered to the rectum during prostate cancer radiation therapy.13SpaceOAR™ Hydrogel is designed to help reduce prostate cancer radiation therapy side effects.6 Learn more.