This is Prostate Cancer Awareness month, and as such, this Straight, No Chaser explores the prostate (no pun intended). Prostate cancer and screening will be addressed in an additional post. There are generally five questions people ask about the prostate, so let’s take the time to address them. These topics are individually discussed in detail at www.sterlingmedicaladvice.com.
1. What is the prostate?
The prostate is a male-only organ located in front of the rectum and under the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, which is the tube through which urine flows on its way out of the penis. Understanding this anatomy helps one understand the nature of problems that arise related to the prostate. Importantly, the prostate is part of the male reproductive system. It’s a gland that contributes to the fluid (seminal fluid) that carries sperm out of the body (i.e., semen).
2. Doesn’t it get infected?
Prostatitis is either inflammation or infection of the prostate gland. It has many different causes. When an infection with bacteria causes prostatitis, it is called bacterial prostatitis. Bacterial prostatitis can be a particularly long-lasting infection, requiring antibiotics to treat.
- Acute bacterial prostatitis is an infection that produces signs and symptoms rapidly.
- Chronic bacterial prostatitis is an infection that lasts for at least three months.
3. Why does the prostate get large?
A condition known as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) occurs in men as they age. As a general rule, 50% of men have it by age 50, and 80% have it by age 80. The prostate normally is only the size of a walnut. When BPH occurs, the prostate has enlarged to a point where it may press upon the urethra, disrupting the normal flow of urine, preventing normal emptying. It is important to understand that the growth seen in BPH is not cancer.
4. What’s the relationship between the prostate and sex?
When people ask me this question, they have one of two concerns.
- Some medical studies have drawn a relationship between a higher frequency of ejaculations and a lower risk of prostate cancer. This trend is not currently considered definitive; to be clear there is no conclusive evidence that the risk of prostate cancer is reduced by frequent ejaculation.
- The male equivalent of a “G-spot” is described as being near the prostate.
5. Is prostate cancer deadly?
Prostate cancer is usually slow growing, but may occasionally be aggressive. Cancerous prostate cells may break off and spread to other parts of the body, particularly the bones and lymph nodes. Prostate cancer usually is seen in men after 50 and even when discovered often doesn’t require especially aggressive management.
Your bottom line? You especially need a prostate exam and other considerations yearly after age 50.
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