All about your prostate and what can go wrong with it. For example, benign prostate enlargement and prostate cancer.
What is the prostate?
- The prostate is a small gland, about the size of a walnut. It is only found in males. It sits just below the bladder.
- It makes fluid that forms part of semen.
- The urethra is a tube that carries pee from the bladder out of the body. In men, the urethra passes through the prostate before reaching the penis.
As men get older, the prostate gland grows. Many will develop a condition called benign prostatic enlargement (BPE). This is sometimes called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPE is not cancer. You do not have an increased risk of getting prostate cancer if you have BPE.
What symptoms will I get?
If your prostate gets bigger, it can put pressure (compression) on your bladder and urethra. This may mean you:
- Have problems starting to pee
- Need to pee a lot
- Have problems emptying your bladder.
Will I need more tests?
You will need to have some tests to find out whether you have BPH. Your GP will ask you about your symptoms and may:
- Look at your stomach and genital area
- Do a blood test to check your kidneys are working.
- Do a digital rectal check (examination). Visit our page about digital rectal examination (link will open a new tab).
- Do a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. This is a blood test to help detect prostate cancer. Visit our PSA test page to find out more (link will open in a new tab).
- Test your urine to check for infection or diabetes.
What treatments can I have?
If you have severe problems, you may get a choice of treatments including:
- A transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP). This involves cutting away part of your prostate. You can find out more information on the NHS website (this link will open in a new external tab).
- Rezum involves having small jets of steam injected into your prostate. The steam destroys excess tissue. This then causes your prostate to shrink. You can find out more information on the British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS) website (this link will open in a new external tab). Please note, this external document is produced by the British Association of Urological Surgeons. It is in PDF format and may not be compatible with screen readers.
- HoLEP involves using a laser to remove part of your prostate. You can find out more information on the BAUS website (this link will open in a new external tab). Please note, this external document is produced by the British Association of Urological Surgeons. It is in PDF format and may not be compatible with screen readers.
- Urolift involves passing implants into your prostate. They pull parts of your prostate away from the urethra. You can find out more information by visiting the BAUS website (this link will open in a new external tab). Please note, this external document is produced by the British Association of Urological Surgeons. It is in PDF format and may not be compatible with screen readers.
What is cancer?
Your body is made of trillions of cells. Cells make up the tissues of our bodies. They usually grow and divide in a controlled way. When cells become old or get damaged, they die and are replaced with new cells. Sometimes this normal system is disrupted. Cells can start to grow and divide too quickly. They do not always die when they should.
If this happens, the extra cells clump together to form a lump or mass. This is called a tumour. These tumours can grow. In some cases, cells break off and spread to other parts of the body. These are called metastases. They can spread to your bones or your lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are part of your immune system.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer does not usually cause any symptoms. However, you may start to get symptoms if the cancer has grown large enough to start pressing on the tube that carries pee from the bladder to the outside (urethra).
Symptoms of prostate cancer can include:
- Problems starting to pee (hesitancy)
- Pain when you pass pee
- Passing pee a lot, especially at night
- Starting and stopping when peeing
- Dribbling pee or weak flow of pee
- Feeling that you have not emptied your bladder properly
- Blood in pee
- Blood in semen.
Other symptoms can include:
- Bone pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Pain in the testicles.
Having these symptoms does not mean you have prostate cancer. They can be caused by benign prostatic enlargement. This is a non-cancerous condition. If you do get these symptoms, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor.
Age. The risk of getting prostate cancer increases as you get older. Most cases are diagnosed in men over 50.
- Lifestyle factors. There is some evidence that obesity and diet have an effect on your risk of getting prostate cancer.
Ethnicity. Black men over the age of 45 have an increased risk of getting prostate cancer. one in four Black men are diagnosed with prostate cancer compared with one in eight White men.
- Family history. You are more likely to get prostate cancer if:
- Your father or brother has had it. Especially if they were under 60
- You have a close relative with breast cancer.
- The South East London Cancer Alliance has teamed up with prostate cancer patients from Black African and Caribbean communities in south east London and students at the London College of Communications. They developed a series of thought-provoking animations to encourage conversations about prostate cancer.
- The series was also developed in collaboration with Partnership Southwark. It aims to support Black communities to have open conversations about the risk of Black men developing prostate cancer and the importance of getting tested.
- The animation is narrated by patients who have shared their experience of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
This video talks about family history.
© SEL Cancer Alliance  All rights reserved. Information taken 13/06/23
The NHS recommends that Black men over the age of 45 speak to their GP about their risk of prostate cancer, even if people are not experiencing symptoms.
Prostate Cancer UK have a ‘check your risk’ tool on their website (link will open an external tab). You only have to answer three questions. This takes about 30 seconds.
Get to know the basics – learn about the prostate and prostate cancer
In 2022 Prostate Cancer Research worked with Ipsen Ltd. to put together a webinar series called ‘What to Expect: A Guide to Prostate Cancer’.
In this webinar, GP Professor Mike Kirby and Advanced Nurse Practitioner Liz Cross help patients get a better understanding of the prostate, symptoms of prostate cancer and tests that your GP may need to do.
About this information
- This information was published in March 2023. We will revise it in March 2024.
- References and bibliography available on request.
- If you want to reproduce this content, please see our Reproducing Our Content page.