The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that sits under the bladder and wraps around the urethra. Only men have prostates. As a gland, it produces secretions that ultimately end up in the ejaculate. Small outgrowths of the prostate, called the seminal vesicles, produce most of the seminal fluid. Most importantly, the prostate has muscle fibers in its substance that squeeze the urethra closed during ejaculation so that the fluid that is excreted goes out through the tip of the penis and not backward into the bladder. After removal of the prostate gland, the ejaculate will go into the bladder and not out of the tip of the urethra during orgasm. The fluid will be eliminated at the next urination.
Three conditions affect the prostate gland: enlargement, cancer, and infection or inflammation. For some mysterious and unfortunate reason, the prostate gland grows as men age. Because the prostate wraps around the urethra, the growth process can impinge upon the urethra and squeeze it. The result is that the urine has to pass through a small passage in order to exit the bladder. Symptoms of an enlarged prostate include frequent urination, slow flow, and a sense of incomplete bladder emptying.
Unlike benign prostatic enlargement, prostate cancer is an asymptomatic condition. A normal size prostate can have cancer cells in it just as easily as an enlarged prostate. Most prostate cancers are slow-growing and not life-threatening. As a matter of fact, there is a saying among urologists that 80% of men at the age of 80 will have prostate cancer. The challenge is trying to figure out which men have aggressive cancer that needs to be treated. We have ever-emerging diagnostic methods of looking for cancers that need to be managed. And, our treatment options have evolved as well. Robotic surgery, focal therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation are available.
Finally, prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate, can be very uncomfortable and highly symptomatic. Affecting men of all ages, prostatic pain is caused by bacteria, viruses, stress, sitting too much, and unexplained inflammation. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly will help keep bowel movements regular and relax the pelvic muscles, which helps men with prostatitis. Anti-inflammatory agents, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can help alleviate acute episodes of prostatitis. Rarely, antibiotics are necessary, but only in cases in which cultures confirm a bacterial source. If you would like to learn more about prostate disease, please call our office or press the "Book Online" button to make an appointment to see one of our physicians.