THE PROSTATE GLAND
The prostate gland helps with the production of semen (the fluid that transports sperm). It produces a thick, white fluid that is liquefied by a special protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The fluid is mixed with sperm, produced by the testicles, to create semen.
There are a number of conditions that can affect the prostate gland including:
1. make it difficult for you to start urinating
2. weaken the flow of urine or cause 'stopping and starting'
3. cause you to strain to pass urine
4. cause you to urinate more frequently
5. wake you up frequently during the night to urinate
A simple treatment for prostate enlargement is to reduce the amount you drink before you go to bed.
Medications, such as alpha blockers, are also available to help relax the prostate gland muscles, or to reduce its size, making it easier to urinate.
In severe cases that fail to respond to medication, the inner part of the prostate gland that is blocking the urethra can be surgically removed.
Prostatitis is a diverse inflammatory condition where the prostate gland becomes inflamed (red and swollen). Inflammation often occurs as a response to infection, but in many cases of prostatitis no infection can be proved. Symptoms of prostatitis include:
- pelvic pain
- testicular pain
- pain when urinating (this is less common and more likely with a urinary tract infection)
- pain when ejaculating semen
- pain in the perineum (the area between the anus and back of the scrotum), which is often worse when sitting, particularly on hard chairs and bicycle saddles
Prostatitis is thought to affect up to 3 in 20 men (15%) at some point in their lives. Although it can affect men of any age, it is more common in men between 30-50 years of age.
Prostatitis can be treated using a combination of painkillers and other medication, such as alpha-blockers, which can help relieve the symptoms.
1. needing to urinate more frequently (often during the night)
2. needing to rush to the toilet
3. difficulty starting to urinate (hesitancy)
4. straining or taking a long time while urinating
5. weak flow
6. feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully
The outlook for prostate cancer is usually good because, unlike many other types of cancer, it usually progresses very slowly. If treated early, prostate cancer can often be cured.
1. surgery to remove the prostate gland
2. radiotherapy - using radiation to kill the cancerous cells
3. hormone therapy - using medication to block the effects of testosterone (the hormone that stimulates prostate cancer)
These treatment options carry the risk of significant side effects including:
1. loss of libido (sexual desire)
2. erectile dysfunction (the inability to obtain or maintain an erection)
3. urinary incontinence (loss of bladder control)
For this reason, many men choose to delay treatment until there is a significant risk of the cancer spreading. It is usually not possible to cure the cancer if it spreads from the prostate gland to other parts of the body, such as the bones (a process known as metastasis). In this case, the aim of treatment will be to relieve the symptoms and prolong life.