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

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 »

Prostate biopsy: What to expect

Prostate biopsy has risks as well as benefits. A small percentage of men get infections. If an infection gets out of control, it can end in hospitalization. Temporary biopsy after-effects include rectal bleeding, blood in the semen, and urinary problems. It is possible to have a negative biopsy result (no cancer found) but still have cancer. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of this procedure. (Locked) More »

Should I worry about finasteride side effect reports?

Some men who took finasteride for urinary problems (Proscar) or balding (Propecia) have reported permanent sexual side effects such as low sex drive or ejaculation problems. It is not established for certain that the side effects are caused by the drug. (Locked) More »

Should you get a PSA test?

The latest thinking in PSA testing is that prostate cancer screening should not be offered routinely to all men. Because of the testing, many men are diagnosed and treated for cancers that would not have made them sick or shortened their lives. For such men, the treatment—which can produce side effects—is worse than the disease. Although PSA screening has been thought to offer most potential benefit to men at elevated risk, such as African American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer, this has not been shown in studies conducted to date.  (Locked) More »

Your PSA test result: What's next?

When used to check for hidden prostate cancer, the PSA test does not offer a clear and unambiguous result. The test indicates only that a person may have cancer, but a biopsy is required to confirm the actual presence of cancer. If your doctor is concerned about your PSA test result, he or she might suggest additional testing to rule out noncancerous causes and to further assess your cancer risk before recommending that you undergo a biopsy.   (Locked) More »

Should you skip your PSA test?

When a federally sponsored expert panel recommended that men not routinely undergo PSA testing for prostate cancer risk, it touched off a firestorm of controversy that continues today. Media reports presented conflicting expert opinions on the pros and cons of PSA screening for cancer. In such uncertain times, it behooves all men to learn as much as they can about the risks and benefits of PSA testing and make a deeply informed decision that could have serious health consequences—both good and bad. (Locked) More »

Testing your testosterone: It's tricky

Many men are turning to testosterone supplementation to boost flagging libido, lift their spirits, and improve their mental and physical performance. But blood tests for diagnosing "low T" are notoriously unreliable. Measuring total testosterone can produce misleading results in men with low-normal hormone levels. But by combining more than one kind of blood test, and by making sure to retest, your doctor can offer you a reasonably reliable diagnosis and possibly offer a short-term trial of testosterone to see if it makes you feel better. (Locked) More »

Best options for prostate surgery

When it comes to prostate removal, traditional surgery and robot-assisted surgery appear to be equals. What's important is the expertise of the surgeon, whether he or she is doing the operation directly or is controlling the robot doing it.   (Locked) More »

FDA approves new PSA test

The newly approved Prostate Health Index test is for men 50 years and older with a total PSA in the "gray zone"—between 4.0 and 10 nanograms per milliliter—and whose physical exam does not find signs of cancer. (Locked) More »