WHAT IS THE PROSTATE? – The prostate is a gland found in males that is part of the genitourinary system (that also includes the bladder, kidney and testis). It is located in the pelvis, just below and behind the bladder, and just in front of the rectum. The prostate is located at the “neck” of the bladder, where it funnels down and becomes the urethra, which runs through the prostate. The prostate is a single gland, but it does have a right and left side, or lobe. The prostate tissue is surrounded by a thin rhine, or capsule.
The purpose of the prostate is to aid in making the seminal fluids which, during ejaculation, are used to move the sperm out of the body. Two glands, called seminal vesicles, also contribute to the ejaculate. The seminal vesicles are also attached to the prostate from above, and lie behind the bladder.
As men get older, the prostate can enlarge. This is a benign occurrence, often called BPH, or benign prostatic hypertrophy. Since the urethra runs through the prostate, BPH can sometimes cause the prostate tissue to bulge into the urethra, causing some urinary symptoms such as a weak stream or nighttime frequency.
WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER? -For reasons not entirely known, something in the normal cells of the prostate goes awry, and the normal activity of a prostate cell changes. It loses its ability to know when to stop growing, and becomes malignant, a prostate cancer cell. Prostate cancer cells grow at first within the confines of the prostate itself. Sometimes the cells are in only one particular area of the prostate, and sometimes they may be in several locations (“zones”), or lobes. Prostate cancer can grow locally and pierce the capsule of the prostate toward the neighboring per-prostatic area or into the seminal vesicles. Eventually spread further away from the prostate gland itself (metastasis) can occur, typically to the lymph nodes in the pelvis, or to the bones.
Information for this section was graciously provided by the physicians and staff of Advanced Radiation Centers of New York. For further information on prostate cancer, please visit the ARC website.