What Is The Prostate?


What is the prostate?

The prostate gland is about the size of a walnut and is shaped like a doughnut. It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the top part of the urethra; the tube which urine passes through on its way from the bladder to the penis.

The prostate gland produces a milky, slightly acidic fluid that is secreted into the urethra and helps keep the sperm alive and moving. This fluid from the prostate makes up about half of the fluid that is ejaculated.

cross section of the prostate gland

Prostate growth

The prostate is found deep within the pelvis and is difficult to examine except through the rectum.

The close location of the prostate around the urethra means that any enlargement of the gland can narrow the outflow from the bladder. If the prostate grows too large, it may slow or even stop the flow of urine.

At puberty, when testosterone levels in boys start to increase, the prostate grows about eight times in size.  It continues to grow, doubling in size between 21 and 50 years and almost doubling again between 50 and 80 years.  The reasons for this ongoing increase are not fully understood.

prostate growth

What is prostate disease?

Prostate disease is a term used to describe several common prostate problems including:

    * Prostatitis -
      inflammation of the prostate gland, sometimes because of infection;
    * Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or Hypertrophy (BPH) -
      non-cancerous enlargement or growth of the prostate gland;
    * Prostate cancer.

Only prostate cancer and the uncommon acute form of bacterial prostatitis (ABP) are considered life-threatening.  However, both inflammation and enlargement of the prostate can be painful and can have a major effect on man’s quality of life.


Prostatitis is a general term that refers to any inflammation or swelling of the prostate gland. It may or may not be associated with an infection within the prostate gland.

It has been estimated that about one in every six men may experience prostatitis some time during their lives1.  Prostatitis can occur at any age in the male population, but occurs more commonly in the under 50 age group.

Prostatitis is not a life threatening condition but it can be a very painful disorder.


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