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What is the prostate?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

By Christopher Manakas, MD

I get asked this question a lot.  “What is the prostrate?”  First of all, it's prostate, not prostrate.  Prostrate describes a dead body someone finds on CSI - “We found him lying prostrate on the ground”.  Prostate is an organ in the pelvis.

Where is the prostate?  The prostate is a glandular organ, about the size of a walnut, located at the bottom of the bladder.  Think of the bladder as the “sink” and the prostate as the “drain" that urine flows through.  Once urine flows through the prostate, it enters the urethra and exits through the tip of the penis.  Basic plumbing, really.

All men have a prostate.  What function does the prostate have?  The prostate makes fluid that is part of ejaculation.  Yep, the prostate is a very important reproductive organ.  Once you are done having children, however, the prostate may start to cause you trouble.

The prostate is one of those organs that continues to grow as you get older.  For some men, it may get to be the size of a plum around age 60.  In some men, the prostate may get huge - we’re talking grapefruit huge.   This is not a cancerous growth I’m referring to, this is benign prostate growth.  It happens to virtually all men, to a varying degree.

While the prostate is growing, urine still has to flow through it and this may make urinating progressively more difficult over time.  Slow stream, waiting forever to get the stream started, interrupted flow, and feeling of incomplete emptying are symptoms that suggest your prostate could be growing and “clogging” your drain.

As common as benign growth is in the prostate, there can also be cancer that develops in the gland.  Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer diagnosed in men.  It is very, very common.  Many prostate cancers are slow-growing and many cancers never require treatment.  Prostate cancer can only be found on a prostate biopsy, which is only done if there are other factors (abnormal blood work, abnormal prostate exam) that make your doctor suspect something is wrong.

Like I said, once you’re done having children, all the prostate does is cause trouble.  Make sure you stay out of trouble and bring up any concerns about bothersome urinary symptoms to your doctor.  Those symptoms don’t have to be a “normal part of getting older.”  There are several therapies available to help; the vast majority of which are non-invasive.

Fort HealthCare Urology Associates

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