The prostate is a critically important gland that is a part of a man’s reproductive system. It is located below the bladder, near the rectum and around the urethra. The prostate is prone to changes throughout men’s lives, beginning with an increase in its size during adolescence. In adults, the prostate tends to remain the same, but as men age, its size increases again. If the prostate gets too large, it may indicate health problems.
Researchers believe that nearly all men will suffer from some disease of the prostate if they live long enough. There are different types of prostate-related diseases and not all of them are malignant, so the health of the prostate is generally evaluated by physicians. A problem may be identified during a routine checkup or by doing a digital rectal exam (DRE). In addition, physicians may request additional exams like a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, a prostate ultrasound or transrectal ultrasound, or a prostate biopsy to confirm the condition.
Benign Diseases of the Prostate
There are two main benign diseases of the prostate: benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which consists of an enlarged prostate, and prostatitis, which is a bacterial infection.
“Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, means your prostate is enlarged, but is not cancerous. It is very common in older men,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “An enlarged prostate may make it very difficult to urinate or cause dribbling after you urinate. You may feel the need to urinate a lot, often at night. See your family doctor for an exam.”
Treatments for BPH includes watchful waiting or active surveillance, medication to shrink the prostate or relax the muscles near the gland, and surgery to improve the flow of urine.
Prostatitis is an infection of the gland that may have different configurations. In the case of acute bacterial prostatitis, the cause is usually bacterial infection and it generally starts suddenly but intensively, causing fever, chills, pain, and blood in urine.
Chronic bacterial prostatitis, on the other hand, is not as severe, but it is persistent. It is addressed with the help of continued treatment with antibiotics. In addition, chronic prostatitis or Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS) is not bacterial but is more common. The symptoms of CPPS include pain in the lower back, in the groin area, or at the tip of the penis, painful ejaculation, and the need to urinate frequently but pass only a small amount of urine. Treatment consists of a combination of medicines, surgery, and lifestyle changes.
Malignant Prostate Diseases
Prostate cancer is a malignant disease of the gland. It is the second most common type of cancer American men after skin cancer. Prostate cancer is rare in men younger than 40, but the probability increases as men age. Other risk factors include race, since it is more common among African-Americans; family history, due to the fact that it is caused by genetic alterations; and a diet high in fats.
In its early stages, the disease may go unnoticed, which can make diagnosis difficult. But as the disease progresses, patients may experience urination problems, pain, erectile dysfunction, and weakness or numbness in the limbs.
“Several types of cells are found in the prostate, but almost all prostate cancers develop from the gland cells (the cells that make the prostate fluid that is added to the semen). The medical term for a cancer that starts in gland cells is adenocarcinoma,” the NIH states on its website.
“Some prostate cancers can grow and spread quickly, but most grow slowly. In fact, autopsy studies show that many older men (and even some younger men) who died of other causes also had prostate cancer that never affected them during their lives. In many cases neither they nor their doctors even knew they had it.”
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