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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of the prostate

Mō te repe tātea

The prostate is a small gland that only men have. It sits just below the bladder and surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that carries wee (urine) from the bladder. It's about the size of a walnut.

The prostate gland produces a protein called prostate specific antigen (PSA).

The prostate helps to make semen, which carries sperm from the testicles when a man ejaculates. Because the prostate is a sex gland, its growth is affected by the hormone testosterone.

Your prostate often becomes larger with age (prostate enlargement).You can also get inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis) and cancer of the prostate.

Symptoms of prostate problems

Symptoms that can indicate problems with your prostate include:

See your general practice team to have these symptoms checked. They will usually be caused by an enlarged prostate, which is not cancer.

Diagnosing prostate problems

To assess your prostate, your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and examine you. As your doctor cannot look at or directly examine your prostate, they might carry out a digital rectal examination. This is when your doctor gently inserts a lubricated gloved finger into your back passage. This allows them to feel the size, shape and texture of your prostate, which they can feel through the front wall of your rectum.

Your doctor may also arrange some blood tests and a urine test.

Preventing prostate problems

There are steps you can take to keep your prostate healthy and pick up problems early.

Have regular prostate checks

See your general practice team for regular checks of your prostate from around age 50, or earlier if you're more at risk of prostate cancer.

Drink less alcohol

Heavy drinking can increase your risk of prostate cancer. Stick to recommended levels of alcohol intake.

Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight may affect the hormone levels that can increase your risk of cancer. As well as other health benefits, being a healthy weight may reduce your risk.

Eat healthy food

Eat a variety of healthy food, especially plenty of vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and legumes. For more information, read Eating for a healthy prostate.

Keep active

Being active for around 30 minutes at least five times a week reduces your risk of many cancers. It also has many other health benefits.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2022.


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