The prostate is a small gland shaped like a walnut, located just beneath the urinary bladder in men. Its function is to process the fluids produced during ejaculation that carry the sperm. These fluids allow sperm to survive and help the body resist infection. The prostate is made up of muscular tissues that contract and squeeze the prostate's fluid into the urethra, where it mixes with sperm produce in the testicles and propelled into the urethra. The prostate does not produce hormones, but it needs the male hormone testosterone to function properly. Testosterone stimulates the activity and growth of the prostate.
Age is the biggest risk factor for prostate cancer. As a man ages, the prostate can become enlarged, causing pain and discomfort, particularly during urination. He also becomes more likely to develop prostate cancer. If detected early enough, prostate cancer is curable, so doctors recommend that men over 50 have an annual rectal examination. Symptoms of prostate problems include frequent urination; pain or burning when urinating; blood in the urine; stopping and starting while urinating; and difficulty postponing urination.
Prostate cancer occurs in 1 out of 10 men. Each year, more than 30,000 men in the U.S. die of prostate cancer. Prostate diseases are most likely to occur in men over age 50, or age 45 for African American men.