The prostate is a small gland the size of a walnut situated deep in the pelvis. It is only found in men. It sits between the bladder and urethra (waterpipe) and when men void the urine passes through the middle of the gland. Its main function is one of fertility. It produces the bulk of the ejaculate and helps control ejaculation. It also has a role in helping with continence.
The prostate develops through puberty and grows as a result of testosterone (the male hormone) and its metabolite dihydrotestosterone. These hormones play an important role in prostate development.
As men age the prostate naturally gets bigger, this is a benign (non cancerous) process. An enlarged prostate can obstruct the flow of urine causing waterwork symptoms (lower urinary tact symptoms).
These symptoms include a slowing of the urinary flow, a pause before urinating, a feeling of incomplete emptying and commonly getting up at night to void, urinating little and often during the day and having to rush to the toilet. Sometimes an enlarged prostate can cause blood in the urine or urinary tract infections.
Although a lot of men with prostate cancer are diagnosed before they develop symptoms, if prostate cancer does become symptomatic the symptoms can be indistinguishable from a non cancerous or benign growth of the prostate.