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Understanding Prostate Changes: A Health Guide for Men

  • Posted: 10/29/2009

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Introduction to the Prostate

What is the prostate?
How does the prostate change as you get older?
What prostate changes should you be aware of?

You may be reading this booklet because you are having prostate problems. The booklet can help answer your questions about prostate changes, such as:

  • What are common prostate changes?
  • How are these changes treated?
  • What do I need to know about testing for prostate changes, including cancer?

This booklet can give you basic information about common prostate changes. If you are making decisions about prostate cancer treatment, there are other resources available. See the For More Information section.

 

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small gland in men. It is part of the male reproductive system.

The Prostate

The prostate is about the size and shape of a walnut. It sits low in the pelvis, below the bladder and just in front of the rectum. The prostate helps make semen, the milky fluid that carries sperm from the testicles through the penis when a man ejaculates.

The prostate surrounds part of the urethra, a tube that carries urine out of the bladder and through the penis.

 

How does the prostate change as you get older?

Because the prostate gland tends to grow larger with age, it may squeeze the urethra and cause problems in passing urine. Sometimes men in their 30s and 40s may begin to have these urinary symptoms and need medical attention. For others, symptoms aren't noticed until much later in life. An infection or a tumor can also make the prostate larger. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have any of the urinary symptoms listed below.

Tell your doctor if you have these urinary symptoms:

  • Are passing urine more during the day
  • Have an urgent need to pass urine
  • Have less urine flow
  • Feel burning when you pass urine
  • Need to get up many times during the night to pass urine

 

What prostate changes should you be aware of?

Growing older raises your risk of prostate problems. The three most common prostate problems are:

One change does not lead to another. For example, having prostatitis or an enlarged prostate does not increase your risk of prostate cancer. It is also possible for you to have more than one condition at the same time.

Most prostate changes are not cancer.

To order free copies of this booklet, call the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) or click here to get free copies sent to you.