March 16, 2009 -- Question: What is the prostate?
Answer: The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that sits at the base of the bladder. It's hollow -- similar to a donut -- and the urethra runs right through the middle of the prostate. That's why as men get older and the prostate enlarges, there can be some impingement on the urethra and they can have difficulty urinating.
As I said, a young man's prostate is about the size of a walnut, but as you get older it can grow to the size of a tangerine or a small orange. The prostate also plays a small role in urinary control, although the urinary sphincter is probably a more important component of urinary control than the prostate.
The prostate also adds some constituents to the ejaculate that help the sperm to liquefy after a man ejaculates. And those are really the main functions of the prostate.
As a urologist, we deal with the main problems that develop with the prostate. As men get older, their prostates enlarge and they have difficulty urinating. And approximately one in six men will eventually develop prostate cancer.