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Many men have problems with the prostate at some time in their lives. The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system. It’s located just below the bladder. The prostate surrounds the urethra (the tube that carries urine and semen out of the body). The main function of the prostate gland is to add fluid to the semen. When problems occur in the prostate, the bladder and urethra are often affected as well. The most common prostate problems are described below.
BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) develops when changing hormone levels cause the prostate to grow larger. This often starts around age 50. Excess tissue can block the urethra, making it harder for urine to flow. The enlarged prostate can also press on the bladder, so you may need to urinate more often. Other symptoms include straining during urination, a weak urine stream, urinating more at night, incontinence, dribbling at the end of urination, and feeling that the bladder isn’t emptying all the way. Note that BPH is not cancer and does not cause cancer.
Pushing to urinate through a narrowed urethra can cause the bladder walls to thicken or stretch out of shape. A stretched bladder may have problems emptying all the way. If urine stays in the bladder longer than it should, you may develop an infection or bladder stones. Also, the kidneys can’t drain properly into a bladder that doesn’t empty completely. This can lead to kidney failure. Pressure from urine buildup can also cause leaking of urine (called overflow incontinence).
Prostatitis is an infection or inflammation that causes the prostate to become painful and swollen. The swelling narrows the urethra and can block the bladder neck. Prostatitis can cause a burning sensation during urination. You may also feel pressure or pain in the genital area. In some cases, prostatitis can cause fever and chills, and can make you very sick.
Cancer occurs when abnormal cells form a tumor (a lump of cells that grow uncontrolled). Some tumors can be felt during a physical exam, others can’t. Prostate cancer often causes no symptoms at all, especially in its early stages. Prostate symptoms are more likely to be caused by a problem that is NOT cancer.
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