The prostate gland is probably not something you give that much thought to, because it’s hidden away inside of you, between the penis and the bladder and surrounding the urethra, but it performs a vital role in helping with the production of semen. It is generally as you get older that the prostate gland becomes a problem, as there are a number of conditions which can affect your urination habits, cause discomfort and sometimes lead to more serious problems. These conditions include prostatitis, prostate enlargement, and prostate cancer.

Prostatitis is a condition where the tissues of the prostate become inflamed and is usually the result of an infection. Unlike an enlarged prostate, this condition is common amongst men who are under fifty. If you are suffering from this condition you may experience symptoms such as pelvic pain, pain in the perineum, testicular pain, a burning sensation when urinating and pain when ejaculating. For this condition, painkillers and an alpha-blocker will be needed to alleviate the symptoms.

Prostate enlargement is a condition that tends to affect men as they get older – usually in their fifties and beyond – and will be most noticeable when it comes to your ability to urinate. Basically, the enlarged prostate puts pressure on the urethra – the tube through which urine and semen passes – thus making it more difficult to urinate in a normal way. You may discover that it becomes more difficult to start urinating; that the flow of urine is not as strong, causing you to stop and start; plus, you may also end up needing to urinate more frequently, often waking up during the night in order to relieve yourself.

Prostate enlargement is a very common condition and is usually treated through making changes to your lifestyle or medication. In some cases, though, surgery will be required to deal with the problem.

Prostate cancer, the most common type of cancer diagnosed in men, can cause you to develop symptoms that are virtually the same as those for someone with an enlarged prostate, including a need to urinate more frequently, particularly at night; straining to urinate; pain when you urinate; pain when you ejaculate; weak flow; and a feeling that your bladder hasn’t been completely emptied. Consequently, you may tell yourself there is no need to worry, but it is always worth getting checked over.

This is especially true if you’re over sixty-five, as the risk of prostate cancer increases substantially as you get older and the majority of cases are diagnosed in men who fall into this age range. Plus, it is worth noting that men of certain ethnicities are more likely to develop prostate cancer, especially if you are of Afro-Caribbean or African descent.

Luckily, in most cases the outlook for someone with prostate cancer is positive, as it isn’t as aggressive as many other types of cancers, meaning that it progresses very slowly. Indeed, you may not even experience any symptoms for a number of years. As long as prostate cancer is discovered in the early stages, there is a good chance it can be cured.

There are a number of different treatment options for someone with prostate cancer. These include having the prostate gland removed through surgery; radiotherapy in order to destroy the cancerous cells; or hormone therapy in which medication is used to counter the effects of testerone – the very hormone that stimulates the growth of prostate cancer.

As with any kind of treatment there are risks and potential side effects involved. You may feel less interested in sex and have difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, while some men also experience urinary incontinence. Unfortunately, when these are your options you may be inclined to put off seeking treatment, but there is a danger that the cancer could spread to other parts of the body and that, as a consequence, the cancer will become incurable.

Many men find the prospect of a rectal examination rather embarrassing and so there are those who decide not to see their doctor, despite experiencing a range of symptoms. However, if there is a problem it is better to have it discovered sooner rather than later, as otherwise your quality of life could suffer.

Caffmos supports the prostrate cancer society.