Prostate Health & Disease

The prostate gland has an important job: it produces a thick, milky-white fluid that becomes part of the semen, the liquid ejaculated during sexual activity. The gland isn't big—about the size of a walnut or golf ball—but its location virtually guarantees problems if something goes awry. The prostate gland is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It also wraps around the upper part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. That means prostate problems can affect urination and sexual function.

The prostate is prone to three main conditions:

Prostatitis: infection or inflammation of the prostate. Prostatitis can cause burning or painful urination, the urgent need to urinate, trouble urinating, difficult or painful ejaculation, and pain in the area between the scrotum and rectum (known as the perineum) or in the lower back.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia: aging-related enlargement of the prostate gland. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) can make the prostate compress the urethra and slow or even stop the flow of urine, in much the same way that bending a garden hose chokes off the flow of water. BPH affects about three-quarters of men over age 60.

Prostate cancer: the growth of cancerous cells inside the prostate, which may break out of the gland and affect other parts of the body. In the United States, about 1 man in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. It occurs mainly in older men.

Prostate Health & Disease Articles

When is it time to stop being checked for prostate cancer?

Routine PSA testing to check for prostate cancer is no longer recommended for most men. Guidelines specifically discourage routine testing for men 70 and older. But despite what the experts suggest, many men and their doctors continue to opt for regular PSA tests. This includes a surprisingly large number of men in their 70s. Older men stand less to benefit from PSA testing because of a shorter life span. Having any chronic health conditions also reduces the potential benefit. Those who choose to continue testing anyway should be aware of the potential risks. The risks include the chance of serious complications of treatment, which most men choose after diagnosis with low-risk, early-stage prostate cancer. More »

New tests promise smarter prostate cancer screening and treatment

A number of new tests combine measurements of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) with other cancer markers in blood and urine to more accurately identify men who should have a prostate biopsy to look for prostate cancer. New gene-based tests provide information to help decide whether a man should have a repeat biopsy when the previous one found no cancer, yet PSA remains high. Gene-based tests can also help men and their doctors assess how likely the cancer is to spread and progress. A slow-growing, low-risk cancer may not demand immediate treatment. In that situation, a man could choose to closely monitor the cancer and move forward with treatment only when the cancer shows signs of spreading. This strategy is known as active surveillance or watchful waiting. (Locked) More »

Try these techniques to relieve common urinary symptoms without medication

Some men with mild-to-moderate symptoms of noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland, called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), can try a conservative approach called watchful waiting. This involves monitoring the symptoms over time until a man feels it is time to consider additional treatments, such as medications or surgery. In the meantime, behavior changes can help control symptoms. These include restricting fluids, modifying the use of prescription or over-the-counter medications that worsen symptoms, and changing the timing and manner in which the bladder is emptied. More »

New evidence that a heart-healthy diet also helps fight prostate cancer

Heart-healthy nutrition helps prevent prostate cancer and may slow the progression of low-risk prostate cancer to a more aggressive form. A key element is replacing animal fats and refined carbohydrates with healthier vegetable fats from foods such as avocados, walnuts, and soybean, canola, and olive oils. These steps also fight heart disease, which remains the leading killer of American men. (Locked) More »

Pain beyond the prostate

Chronic pelvic pain is difficult to treat. If pain is related to a prostate infection, antibiotics can cure the condition. Most cases of chronic pelvic pain in men do not trace back to infections, and doctors have few proven treatments to offer. After exhausting the standard options, consider alternative therapies if they ease the discomfort and pain and do no harm. (Locked) More »

Prostate help: A test that can help you avoid unnecessary prostate biopsies

PSA testing to check for hidden prostate cancer in other wise healthy men identifies a potential risk but is not a diagnosis. Diagnosing cancer requires a prostate needle biopsy, which is painful for some men and may lead to bleeding and infection. In men with moderately elevated PSA levels, three-quarters of biopsies do not confirm the presence of cancer. The PCA3 test can help some men avoid unnecessary repeat biopsies after a biopsy does not find cancer and PSA levels remain high. (Locked) More »

Should you take an erectile dysfunction drug to also ease urinary woes?

Difficulties with urination become more and more common over age 50. Often the cause is the noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Some men have both BPH and erectile dysfunction (ED). The ED drug tadalafil is approved for use in men with both ED and BPH, but its use for urinary symptoms is less well established than standard medications. Tadalafil is not the best starting medication for treating moderate to severe BPH. Use standard medications and take ED drugs as needed. (Locked) More »