1. It keeps sperm healthy
Located just below the bladder, the prostate is a walnut-sized gland found only in men. The urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis, runs through it. Its main role is to produce prostatic fluid to provide nutrients for sperm.
2. STIs can cause prostate infection
Prostatitis, inflammation or infection of the prostate, mainly affects men under 40 and can develop from a urinary tract infection. Symptoms can include pain when urinating and ejaculating and pelvic pain. The cause can be anything from bacteria to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia. It can be treated with antibiotics.
3. Prostatitis may link to cancer
Evidence suggests men who have had prostatitis may be more at risk of developing prostate cancer. The inflammation, especially combined with a lack of vitamin D, may encourage the cancer to develop.
4. Vitamin D is good for prostate health
Good genital hygiene and condoms can help prevent urinary tract infections and prostatitis. There is also increasing evidence that vitamin D promotes resistance to infections.
5. The prostate can enlarge with age
At least 60 per cent of men over 60 have benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlarged prostate. Symptoms include difficulty urinating and needing the toilet often. If symptoms are mild, no treatment is needed, but in severe cases, medication to shrink the gland or surgery can improve quality of life.
6. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men
One in nine men develop prostate cancer, about 20,000 are diagnosed annually in Australia and 3300 die from it. Almost two-thirds of those diagnosed are older than 65. Men of Afro-Caribbean descent have an increased risk, as do those who have a close relative with the disease. Having an STI at a young age can also be a risk factor.
7. Genes can play a part in prostate cancer
Up to 10 per cent of prostate cancer cases have an inherited component. For example, the BRCA2 gene, which can cause breast cancer in women, is also associated with prostate cancer.
8. Prostate cancer can be symptomless
Although some men have lower back or hip pain, prostate cancer may have few or no signs in the early stages. A PSA blood test checks whether levels of prostate-specific antigen, a chemical made by the gland, are raised, which may indicate cancer. In advanced prostate cancer the sufferer may experience bone, pelvic or back pain, weight loss and blood in the urine or semen.
9. Diagnosis of prostate cancer is improving
A new test, PCA3, measures a protein only produced by cancer cells and is about 80 per cent accurate. A definite diagnosis can be made with a biopsy.
10. Prostate cancer is often slow-growing
The challenge is to find out whether the cancer is aggressive or slow-growing as treatment can cause serious side effects, including incontinence and impotence. Most cancers are slow-growing. Post mortems show that 80 per cent of men aged 80 have cancer cells in the prostate that may have been present for 20 to 25 years and they have died of other causes.
11. Treatment for prostate cancer varies
Doctors decide on treatment based on a man’s age, how aggressive the cancer appears, PSA test results and the man’s attitude. Out of every 100 men diagnosed, about two-thirds have aggressive treatment. The other third opt for monitoring through regular blood tests, biopsies and digital rectal examinations.
12. There are often no side effects from prostate cancer treatment
Treatment can include removing the prostate, radiotherapy, freezing or heat treatment to destroy the gland. There is little difference in survival rates between treatments, although freezing and heating are quite new. Due to better techniques, serious side effects from treatment are less common.
13. Tomatoes are good for the prostate
Several studies show that men who eat foods containing lycopene, found in tomatoes and tomato-based foods, have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Getting enough exercise also appears to reduce the risk. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight and don’t smoke.