What Prostate Changes You Should Be Aware Of What Prostate Changes You Should Be Aware Of
National Cancer Institute

You may be reading this booklet because you are having prostate problems. The booklet can help answer your questions about prostate changes that happen with age, such as:

What are common prostate changes?
How are these changes treated?
What do I need to know about testing for prostate changes, including cancer?
This booklet can give you basic information about common prostate changes. If you are making decisions about prostate cancer treatment, there are other resources available. See the For More Information section.

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small gland in men. It is part of the male reproductive system.

The prostate is about the size and shape of a walnut. It sits low in the pelvis, below the bladder and just in front of the rectum. The prostate helps make semen, the milky fluid that carries sperm from the testicles through the penis when a man ejaculates.

The prostate surrounds part of the urethra, a tube that carries urine out of the bladder and through the penis.

How does the prostate change as you get older?

The prostate gland surrounds the tube (urethra) that passes urine. This can be a source of problems as a man ages because:

The prostate tends to grow bigger with age and may squeeze the urethra (see drawing) or
A tumor can make the prostate bigger
These changes, or an infection, can cause problems passing urine. Sometimes men in their 30s and 40s may begin to have these urinary symptoms and need medical attention. For others, symptoms aren’t noticed until much later in life. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have any urinary symptoms.

Tell your doctor if you:
Are passing urine more during the day
Have an urgent need to pass urine
Have less urine flow
Feel burning when you pass urine
Need to get up many times during the night to pass urine

What prostate changes should you be aware of?

Growing older raises your risk of prostate problems. The three most common prostate problems are:

Infection (prostatitis)
Enlarged prostate ( BPH, or benign prostatic hyperplasia)
Prostate cancer
One change does not lead to another. For example, having prostatitis or an enlarged prostate does not raise your chance of prostate cancer. It is also possible for you to have more than one condition at the same time.

Most men have prostate changes that are not cancer.

What are common tests for prostate changes?

Abnormal findings from any of these tests can help diagnose a problem and suggest the next steps to take:

DRE (digital rectal exam)–a test to feel the prostate
PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test–a blood test
Biopsy–a test to check for cancer