All men have a prostate, but that doesn’t mean that all men are actually aware of what it does – or even where to find it. According to a survey done of 2000 men by Prostate Cancer UK, over 50% didn’t know where the prostate was in their bodies, while 17% surveyed didn’t know what the prostate was altogether! But not to worry – we’re never too old to learn. Here, expert urologist Mr Andrew Ballaro explains 6 things every man should know about his prostate.
Where is the prostate?
The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system, and is about the size and shape of a walnut. It can be found underneath the bladder, and in front of the rectum, surrounding part of the urethra, which carries urine from the bladder through the penis.
What does the prostate do?
The prostate produces substances which help sperm to survive after it has been ejaculated. It is important for the proper function of sperm cells, making it directly connected to male fertility. Therefore the prostate is an essential part of reproduction.
How do I know if my prostate is ‘working’ properly?
One indication that you have a healthy prostate is by keeping an eye on your urine flow – if the flow changes in pressure, it might be an indication of a prostate problem.
You might also want to look for signs such as more frequent urination during the night, difficulty in starting to urinate, or if you spot a dribble of urine before or after going to the toilet.
If I have abnormal symptoms, does that mean I have prostate cancer?
We are becoming more and more aware of prostate cancer, but not all prostate problems indicate prostate cancer. As the prostate does so many things, and is such a complex gland, it is natural that there are other conditions which affect it. The above symptoms can be an indication of non-cancerous inflammations, such as BPE (benign prostate enlargement) or BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia). They could also indicate an infection of the prostate, such as prostatitis, which is why it is important to visit your GP if you notice any symptoms.
How common is prostate cancer?
It is true, however, that 1 in 8 men in the UK are estimated to get prostate cancer over their lifetime, and it is the most common cancer found in men. While causes of prostate cancer are largely unknown, the chances of developing it increase as you get older, and risk also increases if you have a direct male relative (father, brother) who has been affected by prostate cancer. Discuss any abnormal symptoms with a doctor, and don’t hesitate to bring them up.
How can I get checked for prostate cancer?
Screening tests are offered for prostate cancer, and you can ask to be tested if you feel it is necessary. If your GP suspects prostate cancer, or would like to rule it out, they may suggest you take a PSA test. This test measures the level of the protein ‘prostate specific antigen’, which is produced in the prostate and if a high presence is found, it can be an indication of prostate cancer. However, a raised PSA level can also indicate other problems, so it is important to discuss the PSA test with your GP before and after taking it.
If you are worried about your prostate, are experiencing any symptoms, or would like to know more about your prostate and your health, speak to a doctor or specialist. It is important to take care of your health, learn more about you and your body, and reach out for help – before it is too late.