Do you suffer from prostate problems?

The prostate is a variable sized gland located in the male pelvis, usually the size of a walnut measuring 3-4 centimeters long by 3-5 centimeters in width. On average, the gland weighs about 20 grams. It is found behind the pubic bone, in front of the rectum, and below the bladder, surrounded by the pelvic muscles. The prostate surrounds the urethra which carries urine from the bladder to the penis and travels in the center of the gland. The seminal vesicles attach to the prostate and produce material that mixes with prostate fluid to form semen. The tubes from the testicles carry sperm to the prostate where the sperm are mixed with the prostate and seminal vesicle fluid. This fluid is then ejaculated during orgasm by a connection to the urethra called the ejaculatory ducts.

For many years the prostate was thought to exist in "lobes", however we now refer to the prostate as having various concentric zones. These zones are termed: anterior fibromuscular stroma, peripheral zone, central zone, and transition zone. It is the peripheral zone of the prostate that a doctor can feel by a finger in the rectum. Almost all prostate cancers start in the peripheral zone, thus the importance of the rectal examination. The transition zone generally accounts for less than 5% of the total prostate volume, however it is the exclusive site for the development of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and may therefore become massive. The central zone is involved with the connection of the seminal vesicles to the prostate and is rarely associated with any disease process. The anterior fibromuscular stroma is the anchoring point of the urethral sphincter that controls urination; it does not have any glands and therefore cancer or enlargement does not develop here.

The prostate is made up of several different cell types. Epithelial cells make up the glandular portion of the prostate and stromal cells make up the surrounding muscle and connective tissues. Cancer of the prostate develops from the epithelial cells, but the interaction with the stromal cells is very important to the behavior and characteristics of the cancer. BPH develops from the complex interactions between epithelial and stromal cells. Poorly understood communications between these two very different cell types are believed to dramatically influence the development of various prostatic diseases. Testosterone and the hormonal systems interaction with these cell lines is an extremely active area of cancer research.

Normal ejaculation produces about 3 cc of semen. The sperm make up less than 1 percent of the volume, with the seminal vesicles and prostate producing about 95% of the total volume. The ejaculate is very rich in unusually high concentrations of potassium, zinc, citric acid, fructose, and prostaglandins. Many other unusual substances are also found in the semen. Oral intake of zinc does not alter zinc levels in prostatic fluid. One idea as to why zinc is found at such high levels in the prostate is that zinc may provide protection from infection of the prostate. The significance of many components of prostate fluid is unknown, but generally thought to be involved with reproduction. Thus the prostate is essentially an organ for reproduction. Unfortunately, its proximity and relationship to the bladder and urethra causes major health problems for men long after the need for reproduction has passed.

The human prostate is a remarkable organ that has an essential function in human reproduction. It is made up of many different cell types that have complex and poorly understood interactions with each other. The male hormone testosterone and it related hormones have major roles in the growth and function of the prostate. The zonal anatomy of the prostate combines these cellular elements into a beautiful design for efficient mixing of fluids to allow human reproduction. However, beyond the reproductive years, this same architecture contributes to many of the health problems of men as uncontrolled or poorly regulated cellular growth causes damage to vital bodily functions.

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