The prostate is a gland (chemical-producing organ) located between the bladder and the penis. Its function is to secrete fluid that is incorporated in the seminal fluid and to help propel seminal fluid into the urethra during ejaculation. It makes up about a third of seminal fluid and contains nutrients and chemicals that protects and nourishes sperms. 

Figure 1. Position of the prostate

Prostate Anatomy

Older men are at greatest risk for prostate cancer as most men affected are over 65. However, other risk factors include family with prostate cancer, and race. Prostate cancer is more common in African American men. Since prostate cancer causes enlargement of prostate, it restricts the urethra and cause urination problems. For example, signs and symptoms include not being able to pass urine, hard time starting or stopping urine flow, urine that starts and stops and burning during urination. Other problems could also include difficulty having an erection, blood in the urine or semen, and lower back and hip pain.

Prostate cancer is diagnosed by

  1. Conducting a digital (finger) rectal exam (DRE) to feel for abnormality
  2. Running prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test
  3. Ultra sound
  4. Biopsy

It is important to note that elevated PSA may not necessarily mean cancer. I could be due to enlargement of the prostate, prostate infection or due to medication.

Figure 2. Digital rectal exam

Digital Rectal Exam

Treatment may involve surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or medication. Surgery, called prostatectomy, may include partial or complete removal of the prostate. Other surgical approaches may include removal of the testes (orchiechtomy) to prevent production of testosterone (testosterone feeds the growth of prostate cancer). Medication approaches targets testosterone production by lowering or blocking its production.

Prostate cancer is not preventable but early detection is helpful. The prognosis for prostate cancer is 100% survival over 5 years if the cancer is localized, and 31% if it is distal (spread away from the prostate).   

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Courtney Simons
Courtney Simons
Courtney Simons is a food science professor. He holds a BS degree in food science and a Ph.D. in cereal science from North Dakota State University.