The prostate gland, commonly known as the prostate, is one of the male reproductive organs located just below the bladder, above the penis, and in front of the rectum. It is connected to the penis by a tube (urethra) that empties urine from the bladder. The size and shape of the prostate are similar to a walnut.
What is the function of the prostate?
The main function of the prostate gland is to secrete an alkaline fluid that forms around 70% of the semen. Apart from lubrication, these secretions act as a source of nutrients for the sperm. The alkaline fluid in the ejaculated semen also helps to neutralize the acidic vaginal environment during sexual intercourse.
What are the signs and symptoms of prostate problems?
The presence of any one or more of the following signs and symptoms may indicate a problem with the prostate.
How to check the prostate?
A person can get his prostate checked from a doctor if he is experiencing any of the signs and symptoms. The doctor will usually perform the following examinations and tests to confirm if the complaints are due to an abnormality with the prostate.
- Digital rectal exam (DRE): A DRE is usually the first step towards detecting any abnormal growth in the prostate. This procedure involves inserting a lubricated finger through the anus until it reaches the rectum. Once the finger reaches the rectum, the prostate can be felt. This test helps the doctor to feel the hard lump, if any, on the prostate.
- Ultrasonography (USG): Next, the patient is advised to undergo a USG of the pelvis or a transrectal ultrasound to look for any changes in the shape or structure of the prostate. During a transrectal ultrasound, a small probe, about the size and shape of a cigar, is inserted into the rectum. The probe uses sound waves to create an image of the prostate gland.
- PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test: A PSA test is a blood test that helps the doctor to check the health quotient of the prostate. A higher PSA level in the blood can be seen in an individual when he is experiencing inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis), enlargement of the prostate (benign prostate hypertrophy or BPH), and prostate cancer. Many other things can cause a false-positive test result. These include an orgasm within the past 24 hours, a prostate biopsy, or prostate surgery that may cause a temporary increase in PSA levels. PSA test combined with DRE is being widely used as a screening test to identify prostate cancers in their early stages.
- Biopsy: A biopsy of the prostate is only advised to confirm or rule out prostate cancer after the above investigations. This procedure involves the surgical removal of a small sample (tissue) of the prostate through a tube-like long camera inserted in the abdomen. The sample is then sent to the laboratory to check for the presence of cancer cells under a microscope. A biopsy is the most reliable test for confirming prostate cancer.
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Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). Available at: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/437359-overview#a4
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