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Ask Dr. Bob: What Is the Prostate?

Do you know what the prostate is? Many people don’t know what it is or what it does.

It’s actually a small gland — normally the size and shape of a walnut — that is part of the male reproductive system. It sits at the opening of the bladder and helps make some of the fluid in semen.

Men are usually unaware of it, but as they age it starts to grow and after the age of 50 or so, the swelling may narrow the opening of the bladder causing difficulty passing urine. This condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). While it is not usually a severe health threat, it can affect your quality of life. Most older men complain that they have to get up at night to urinate. Others may have poor bladder control or weak urine flow. Sometimes these issues may be helped with medication or for more severe conditions, surgery.

Any pain or change in urination should be reported to your provider because sadly, the prostate can become cancerous. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in males after skin cancer. Your provider can diagnose problems with the prostate using a variety of screenings. They may include a rectal exam, a PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) Test, a blood test, a biopsy, an ultrasound, or an MRI.

You should talk to your doctor about your prostate health at your annual physical exam. If you have a prostate problem, ask about the risks and benefits of screenings so you can make decisions based on your personal health and needs.

Good luck with your prostate health!
Dr. Bob

Zufall founder Robert Zufall, M.D., is a retired urologist.

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