The prostate is a small, but important gland in the male reproductive system. It provides the sperm with nourishment and lubricating fluid.

In young men, the prostate is about the size of a walnut and as men age it enlarges. Because the prostate sits underneath the bladder and is wrapped around the ureter, when it enlarges it may slow or stop the flow of urine.

Prostate problems include:

  • benign (non-cancerous) enlargement of the prostate
  • inflammation of the prostate
  • prostate cancer

There are a number of test that may be done to diagnose the problem:

  • physical examination (this includes a rectal examination to check the size and shape of your prostate gland)
  • urine test (to check for infection)
  • urine flow-rate check – to estimate the speed with which you pass urine
  • an ultrasound examination – to assess if the bladder is emptying completely and to examine your kidneys
  • tests on the bladder to see how your urinary system is functioning may be recommended
  • PSA may be used to monitor prostate problems

When a diagnosis is made you and your doctor will decide on the management and treatment.


Prostate cancer screening

Prostate cancer screening involves testing for prostate cancer in men who have no symptoms of the disease. This test can find cancer at an early stage. However, medical experts disagree about whether prostate cancer screening is right for all men, and it is not clear if the benefits of screening outweigh the risks. You should talk with your doctor to decide what is best in your individual situation.

For further information, go to Andrology Australia or see Dr Michael Gillman's men's health fact sheets.


Urinary problems

Many men experience urinary changes as they age. These may be the result of a blockage in the ureters due to a benign (non-cancerous) enlargement of the prostate gland (benign prostate hypertrophy). The most common symptom is difficulty starting to urinate, dribbling and not emptying the bladder.

Treatment may be required if the symptoms become troublesome. Not all urinary symptoms are due to changes to the prostate and some men who have enlarged prostates do not experience any symptoms.

If men have urinary problems caused by inflammation or an enlarged prostate, treatments include:

  • antibiotics (these will need to be taken over a long time)
  • medication to improve urine flow and other symptoms (for obstruction caused by an enlarged prostate)
  • surgical procedures (for blockage caused by an enlarged prostate)

There are other procedures that have been developed to reduce urinary symptoms so it is important to talk to your doctor about the options. Go to Andrology Australia for more information.