The Prostate Gland is located in the male pelvic region, positioned in between the pubic bone and the front of the rectum. At a mere 20 grams, it is slightly larger than a walnut. It is nestled just underneath the urinary bladder, where it is actually wrapped around the urethra - the tube that empties urine from the bladder.
What is the purpose of the prostate?
The purpose of this gland is actually very limited; in fact, its use actually diminishes as a man ages. The gland's job is reproductive in nature, and involves generating and storing a portion of the fluids found in semen. This prostatic fluid is important for fertilization as it ensures that ejaculate is the right consistency and viscosity for Sperm, which is produced by the testicles, to swim effectively and penetrate the cervix more easily.
In young boys, the prostate is barely larger than a seed. During puberty, the prostate becomes primed for reproduction, reaching full size through a growth spurt fueled by male hormones, mainly (but not exclusively) testosterone. As men age, the need for prostatic fluid decreases, primarily because his biological drive to fertilize is lessened; yet, the prostate continues to grow during middle age. Little is know as to why it does so, but generally it is thought to relate to hormones, environmental factors, diet (believed to be highly attributable to animal fat), and lifestyle habits.
The impact that genes have on contributing to prostate problems is not yet clearly defined, but it is known that a genetic factor does exist for developing prostate cancer. The ACS advises that high risk men include those with a family history of this illness, especially when a brother or a father was diagnosed with prostate cancer before age sixty five. Additionally, men of African heritage are also included in this category.
Prostate stimulation for pleasure
There are many men who enjoy the sensation of Prostate Stimulation. The prostate is a sensitive gland, so much so that even a brief session of stimulation can trigger Ejaculation/Orgasm. It can be massaged through the back of the upper wall of the anus using Fingering, Toys, or (if gay) a partner's penis. A vibrating anal toy may help relax the anal sphincter, but its use is a matter of personal preference; the buzzing sensation may or may not feel comfortable to the receiver.
A cause of many men's health issues
Healthy prostate functioning is typically taken for granted until a man reaches his middle age. At this point, he may be wholly unprepared for the negative effects surrounding a distressed prostate. The root of the problem lies in its design. The architecture of the gland makes it extremely vulnerable to inflammation as it does not have any way for infection to drain away on its own. An afflicted prostate can become swollen, so much so that it chokes off the entrance to the urethra; this condition causes pain and urinary problems. It becomes a further troublesome matter when complicated surgery is required to excise the diseased matter.
One of the major indications of a prostate issue are urinary problems, mainly: painful or frequent urination (even to the point of waking in the middle of the night to do so); the need to force urine (despite the fact that the stream is weak or thin); and urine coming out in spurts. With that being said, don't skip over the prostate discussion with your doctor just because you're symptom free.
In the urological world, the prostate gland can seem like an enigma. For one, it has an unusual placement, burrowed amongst a number of other structures. Oddly, the structures that are attached to the gland (the vas deferens and the seminal vesicles), are hardly susceptible to pain or disease … while the prostate itself swells, is vulnerable to infections and hurts when it is afflicted. For another, conditions such as chronic non-bacterial prostatitis don't have set diagnostic criteria nor well established treatments. Fortunately, scientists are advancing their understanding of this gland's disease function, and medical advances are improving the way prostate conditions are being treated.
There are a number of conditions that afflict the gland. Some of the more widespread are as follows:
Cancer - There are a number of treatment options, including radiation or 'a watch and wait' approach. If doctors deem it necessary, an available option is to partially, or completely, surgically remove the gland by performing a prostatectomy. Some of the risks associated with this procedure are urinary issues and impotence.
Prostatitis - an inflammation of the prostate that can make urination and ejaculation extremely painful. It can be acute or chronic, bacterial or non-bacterial.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) - a sign of prostate enlargement, urine flow becomes weak and restricted despite the presence of a full bladder. This can make individuals experience a niggling sensation of an incomplete emptying.
How does a prostate problem get diagnosed?
Because it is deeply set in the pelvic region, prostate issues can be difficult to diagnose, and often require a number of procedures to ascertain what is actually ailing it. The simplest, least invasive measures to reach a diagnosis involve examining the family history, and conducting a thorough interview regarding such things as urinary and erectile function. However, a doctor may need to use one or more of the following methods to gather more information:
1. A digital (finger) rectal exam (DRE), executed by probing the anus with a gloved finger, detects irregularities in shape and size;
2. A simple blood test, which determines elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels;
3. Medical imaging, such as x-ray, CT scan or ultrasound; and
4. A cystoscopy (the one that many men dread), utilizes an instrument that gets inserted into the penis via the urethra to enable a visual inspection.
According the American Cancer Society (ACS), prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men, where one in six will be diagnosed with this disease in his lifetime and one in thirty five will die from it. Because prostate cancer is such a widespread disease, there have been calls to institute mass screening using the simple PSA test. However, there is some disagreement among medical researchers as to the necessity of regular screening for prostate cancer.
There are pros and cons to prostate screening. Much of the controversy is due to the inconclusive results of the blood test that screens for PSA's. Although elevated PSA levels suggest the possibility of cancer (cancer cells in this gland produce approximately ten times more PSA's than non-cancerous cells), research indicates that not all signs of elevated PSA's denote cancer. Other conditions like prostate enlargement or infection will elevate PSA levels, while some prostate cancers do not. It's safe to say that one ought not to get alarmed simply if one’s PSA levels are elevated.
Those men wanting to make an informed decision about prostate cancer screening need to consider the advantages and disadvantages carefully. Some experts are now stating that the benefits associated with finding early stage cancer are not compelling enough to outweigh the risk of treating it. The American Cancer Institute elaborates as to why they don't support routine screening and (in fact) recommends against it, “We have very poor ways of predicting who needs treatment because their prostate cancer might kill them, and who does not need therapy because their tumor is of no threat to them". Further, the National Cancer Institute states, “A large proportion of prostate cancers diagnosed through screening will never grow, spread and cause death”; they contend that most men's health will never be affected by prostate cancer.
Despite the opposing stance that many cancer institutions take against regular screening, some medical practitioners still believe in the benefits of screening and advocate treating a condition before its severity becomes too pronounced. Urologist Dr.Yosh Taguchi's book ‘The Prostate: everything you need to know about the Man Gland’ states, "Even though prostate cancer is generally slow-growing, statistics show that the early detection of prostate cancer through early and regular PSA testing has saved and improved many lives”.
The risks associated with surgical intervention of prostate conditions, particularly cancer, are carefully taken into consideration by doctors because in some cases, “The treatment can cause urinary incontinence, impotence, and even death"(ACS). The health and age of the patient are very important factors; so too are the impact and severity of the condition on the patient.
If a younger man is afflicted with a faster acting form of cancer, then more aggressive, possibly invasive, forms of treatment are examined. If a man in his seventies becomes diagnosed, doctors may employ a gentler treatment method so as to minimize risk and overall impact on his quality of life. In fact, there is a higher likelihood that older men are more likely to die with prostate cancer rather than from it!
An unfortunate circumstance surrounding prostate (and indeed other medical) issues is that men often don't seek the diagnostic support they need, mainly because they feel the need to be ‘macho’, or are embarrassed about the symptoms of their problem (such as incontinence and impotence). However, many ailments are more common than man think and are simply a natural part of the aging process. The result of ignoring such problems is that many potentially serious health conditions are left untreated. Men should be encouraged to take their physical well being seriously, and to recognize that a positive attitude to taking trip to the doctor is the macho approach to health.
What can you do for your prostate? Eat a nutritionally rich diet, maintain a healthy immune system, exercise, avoid smoking, and discuss your risk factors with a doctor to come up with an optimal screening program for you.