The prostate gland is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum and is part of a man’s reproductive system. The prostate produces some of the fluid in semen. As a man ages, the prostate can begin to grow, causing an enlarged prostate.
By the time you turn 40, the prostate may have almost doubled. By the time you turn 60, the prostate may be the size of a small lemon. The prostate surrounds the urethra, and an enlarged prostate can start to squeeze that tube, leading to the symptoms commonly associated with an enlarged prostate.
Symptoms of an Enlarged Prostate
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is the medical term for an enlarged prostate not caused by cancer or inflammation. Infections and tumors can also enlarge the prostate, so it is important to discuss any of the following symptoms with your doctor.
Symptoms of BPH include:
- Increased urination during the day
- Decreased urine flow
- Increased urgency in passing urine
- The need to get up multiple times a night to urinate
- A burning sensation when you urinate
There is no cure for BPH, but there are treatment options for managing your symptoms. Drug or surgical options should be discussed with your doctor if symptoms are interfering with your life.
What is Prostatitis
Prostatitis is a bacterial infection of the prostate. Symptoms may start suddenly and include:
- Painful urination
- Pain in and around the prostate
Most cases of prostatitis can be cured with antibiotics. Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the above symptoms.
Prostatitis can be acute, with a sudden onset of symptoms, or chronic. Chronic prostatitis occurs when an infection comes back again and again. Treatment is more complex for chronic prostatitis. You may have to take antibiotics for a long time. Your doctor will help determine the best plan of treatment.
Chronic pelvic pain syndrome can occur as a result of chronic prostatitis. It can cause pain when ejaculating, pain in the lower back, the groin, or the tip of the penis. Treatments for chronic pain syndrome may require a combination of medicines, lifestyle changes, and even surgery.
What is Prostate Cancer
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. While it is frightening to hear the word cancer, it is essential to know that prostate cancer can be treated effectively, especially if caught early.
Your chances of developing prostate cancer start to rise after the age of 40. Most cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in men over the age of 65. Risk factors, besides age, for prostate cancer include:
- Race—prostate cancer is most prevalent among Black men, followed by Hispanic and Native American men.
- Family history—if the men in your family have developed prostate cancer, your chances of developing the disease increase as well
- Diet—a high-fat diet increases the risk of prostate cancer
- Prostatitis—some studies have shown that inflammation of the prostate, such as prostatitis, is linked to an increased risk of cancer
The Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
Many people with prostate cancer exhibit no symptoms, which is why it is essential to have regular medical check-ups with your doctor. Symptoms of cancer can mimic the symptoms of other prostate problems. When symptoms are present, they can include:
- Frequent urination
- The urge to urinate frequently at night
- Weak or interrupted stream of urine
- The need to strain to urinate
- Blood in the urine
- Blood in semen
- New onset of erectile dysfunction
- Discomfort when sitting
Screening and Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer
You should discuss any of the above symptoms with your doctor, who will help you decide if prostate cancer screening is a good idea. Screening for prostate cancer might include a prostate-specific antigen test (PSA). If higher than normal PSA levels are present in your blood, it may indicate an infection, inflammation, prostate enlargement, or cancer.
Your doctor may perform a digital rectal exam by inserting a gloved finger into your rectum to examine the prostate. If your doctor finds abnormalities in the digital exam, such as changes in the texture, shape, or prostate size, further testing may be warranted.
An ultrasound or an MRI may also be used to determine if a biopsy of the prostate tissue is necessary. Ultimately, diagnosing prostate cancer requires collecting a small amount of prostate tissue and examining it for cancer cells.