What is the Prostate?
The prostate’s job is to add acids, trace elements, and enzymes to seminal fluid at the moment of ejaculation; these activate the sperm and give semen its distinctive smell. For reasons we don’t completely understand the prostate tends to enlarge and stiffen with age, but is probably connected with changing levels of various hormones.
The prostate gland is unique to men. It is part of a man’s reproductive system and is located in front of the rectum, underneath the bladder. The prostate gland encompasses the urethra, which is the tube through which urine flows, hence one of the first signs of prostate problems is decreased urine flow, due to an enlargement of the prostate which then squeezes the urethra. The prostate also makes part of the seminal fluid which helps transport sperm out of a man’s body during ejaculation.
The prostate actually continues to grow throughout life, but grows very slowly after the age of twenty-five and in a healthy state it is the size of a walnut. Enlargement of the prostate gland is part of the normal aging process and usually does not become a serious problem until about age sixty.
Many men will experience some type of prostate problem during their lifetime. Men over forty-five may experience an enlargement of the prostate which can be uncomfortable and can lead to more serious problems. As with female breasts, lumps in the prostate can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign growths are rarely a threat to life and can be safely removed.
Malignant growths (prostate cancer) can be a threat to life, not least because they can spread to other parts of the body travelling in blood vessels or lymph vessels. After spreading, cancer cells may attach to other tissues and grow to form new tumors that may damage those tissues.
Detection of Prostate problems is tricky because of where the prostate is located. It is a bulb-shaped gland that goes round the urethra just where it leaves the bladder, so when it swells up urination becomes a problem. In fact, the first symptoms include finding it hard to urinate, wanting to urinate often, a burning sensation when you do, or blood in the urine.
Prostate Problem Detection
When a prostate problem is detected, most men will undergo tests to determine the cause. A rectal exam may also be performed, to check the size of the prostate to see if it is enlarged. A blood test may also be performed to check your Prostate-specific antigen levels, or PSA. PSA is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland and a PSA test will measure the level of PSA in a man’s blood. The results are usually reported as nanograms of PSA per milliliter (ng/mL) of blood.
The higher a man’s PSA level, the more likely it is that he has prostate cancer. However, there are additional reasons for having an elevated PSA level, and some men who have prostate cancer do not have elevated PSA.
The PSA test has been widely used to screen men for prostate cancer. It is also used to monitor men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer to see if their cancer has returned after treatment or to see if they are responding to therapy.
In addition to prostate cancer, a number of benign conditions can cause a man’s PSA level to rise. The most frequent benign prostate conditions that cause an elevation in PSA level are prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) (enlargement of the prostate).
Prostate Issue? Contact us today!
At LifeWorks we can diagnose the cause and relieve prostate problems. For more information call our Clearwater clinic at 727-466-6789.