The prostate is a small gland that sits low in a man's pelvis. It the part of the reproductive tract that is responsible for making semen. Since the prostate surrounds the urethra -- the tube that carries urine out of the bladder -- problems with the the prostate can lead to a variety of symptoms. Some prostate problems, like cancer, are can be life-threatening, while others are less serious.
An enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), happens because of increased cell growth in the prostate (ref 1). It is the most common prostate problem in men over 50 (ref 2). The symptoms of an enlarged prostate are the same lower urinary tract symptoms present in most prostate problems. These may include (ref 2, 3): - the sensation of incomplete emptying of the bladder with urination - urinating more often than usual - the stopping and starting of the flow of urine while urinating - increased urgency to urinate - a weakened stream of urine - the need to push or strain to get urine out - getting up more at night to urinate
Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland (ref 3). In some cases, prostatitis is caused by a bacterial infection (ref 3). It is the most common prostate problem in men under 50 (ref 2). In addition to the lower urinary tract symptoms above, men with prostatitis may experience (refs 1 & 3): - fever, chills, nausea, body aches - pain in the lower back, rectum, groin, lower pelvis - painful ejaculation - burning or stinging while urinating - discharge from the urethra during bowel movements - blood in the urine In a type of prostatitis called asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis, there are no symptoms (ref 3). An elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test or fertility problems may lead to the diagnosis (ref 1).
Prostate cancer is when cancerous cells have grown in the prostate (ref 1). Prostate cancer often grows more slowly than other types of cancer, and it can take a while before symptoms develop (ref 1). In addition to the lower urinary tract symptoms also associated with an enlarged prostate, prostate cancer symptoms may include: - pain or burning during urination - painful ejaculation - pain in the hips, back or pelvis - blood in the urine
When to Call Your Doctor
Since there is so much overlap of symptoms among prostate conditions, there is no way for you to know what is causing your symptoms. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Your doctor can perform a simple blood test called the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and a digital rectal exam, along with other tests, to find out if you have a problem with your prostate (ref 5). Most prostate problems are not life-threatening, and treatments are available to help relieve your symptoms. And in men who do have prostate cancer, the earlier the diagnosis, the more likely treatment will be successful.