The Structure and Function of the Prostate Gland
The prostate is one of the male sex glands. The other major sex glands are the testicles and seminal vesicles. Together these glands secrete the fluids that make up semen.
The normal prostate is about the size of a walnut. It lies just below the bladder and surrounds the beginning of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that runs through the penis. It carries urine from the bladder and semen from the sex glands.
As the prostate is a sex gland, its growth is influenced by male sex hormones. The chief male hormone is testosterone, which is produced mostly by the testicles.
Screening and Early Detection of Prostate Cancer
Early detection of prostate cancer (PCa) is important as this cancer is most treatable when detected while contained within the prostate gland before it spreads to other parts of the body.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health Prostate Cancer Management and Referral Guidance indicates the procedures for men looking to be tested for prostate cancer.
Regular prostate checks are important for men who:
- Are over the age of 40 if there is a family history of prostate cancer;
- Are older than 50, but younger than 70.
There are two simple tests for prostate cancer and it is recommended that both are done each year.
- The PSA blood test is a simple test than can be done in conjunction with other blood tests (e.g. cholesterol) as part of a routine health check-up.
- The Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) is a physical examination where the doctor checks the size, shape and hardness of the prostate gland by inserting a gloved finger in to the rectum.
Men having any problems such as pain, fever, swelling of the prostate and, blood and pus in the urine, or problems passing urine should consult their doctor without delay.
The most insidious thing about PCa, and what makes it so dangerous, is that in its early stages it does not usually exhibit symptoms. When symptoms begin to appear then it is frequently too late for effective curative treatment. This is why regular check-ups are so important.
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