Know your prostate

Every man has one, it's important for their sex life, yet few men know anything about their prostate or what can go wrong with it.

Better knowledge about this walnut-sized gland will help men to make better choices about testing and treatment.

The prostate is located below the bladder. It produces some of the fluid in semen and is crucial to a man's sex life.

The prostate often enlarges as men get older, but for two-thirds of men aged 50 or over this doesn't cause any problems.

In some cases, an enlarged prostate can press on the tube carrying urine from the bladder and cause urinary problems. This is known as benign prostate enlargement.

Other prostate conditions include swelling, known as prostatitis, which is sometimes caused by an infection. This can make urinating painful. Sometimes a single cell in the prostate starts to multiply out of control and cancer can develop.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with more than 47,000 men diagnosed annually.

More than 11,000 men die from it every year, making it the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men after lung cancer.

However, if prostate cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the chances of survival are generally good.

About 90% of men diagnosed early will live at least five more years and 65-90% will live for at least 10 more years.

Most men with early prostate cancer have no symptoms at all. Some of the symptoms of prostate cancer below can also be caused by other prostate problems.

Symptoms of all prostate problems include:

  • needing to urinate often, especially at night
  • difficulty starting to urinate
  • straining to urinate or taking a long time to finish
  • pain when urinating or during sex

If you have any of these symptoms, you should talk to your GP.

Many men over 70 have prostate cancer, even though most of them will never have it diagnosed or have any symptoms.

In the majority of cases, this is a slow-growing cancer and it may stay undiagnosed because it never causes any symptoms or problems.

In some cases, the prostate cancer cells can grow quickly and move outside the prostate, spreading the cancer to other parts of the body, such as the bones.

Who's at risk of prostate cancer?

The risk of getting prostate cancer gets higher as you get older. Most men diagnosed with the condition are over 50.

If you have a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer, your risk of getting the disease is two-and-a-half times higher compared to the average man. The risk increases to 4.3 if the relative was diagnosed before the age of 60.

Black men are three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than white men. Researchers are looking at what may be the cause of this increased risk, but genes probably play an important role.

Researchers believe a diet high in saturated animal fats and red meat may be responsible for the high incidence of prostate cancer in Western countries.

Reducing your intake of animal fat and eating more fruit and vegetables may lower the risk of prostate cancer developing or spreading.

Tests for prostate cancer

There is currently no national screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK. If you are worried about prostate cancer, you should talk to your GP.

You may want to discuss the PSA test, the most common initial test for men who are worried about prostate cancer.

Find out more about the PSA test.

Page last reviewed: 20/11/2016

Next review due: 20/11/2019

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Prostate problems

Read about the most common prostate problems experienced by men during their lifetime

Prostate health

Every man has one, it's important to their sex life, yet few men know anything about their prostate or what can go wrong with it