The Prostate

Anatomy of the prostate

The prostate is a small gland in the male reproductive system. Situated in front of the rectum and below the bladder, it surrounds the urethra, which is the tube through which urine flows out of the body. The main function of the chestnut-sized prostate is to secrete part of the seminal fluid that combines with sperm to form semen. A healthy adult prostate weighs around 20 to 25 grams and is approximately 4 cm wide, 3 cm high and 2 cm thick.


Anatomie de la prostate


  1. Penis
  2. Urethra
  3. Testis
  4. Scrotum
  5. Bladder
  6. Seminal vesicle
  7. Prostate gland
  8. Anus
  9. Rectum




Prostate scheme

Diseases of the prostate


The term prostatitis, or prostate infection, refers to a swelling of the prostate that usually occurs after the age of 40. The disease causes urinary symptoms (frequent urge to urinate, burning sensation, intermittent urination, etc.), and may also cause lower abdominal pain and fever. Prostatitis is treated with antibiotics.


The constituent tissue of the prostate may become hypertrophied (i.e. abnormally over-developed) with age. This phenomenon is known as prostate adenoma or benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). Although this is a benign disease and not cancer, it often goes undiagnosed until it causes discomfort and/or painful urination. Prostatic adenoma causes urinary disorders because it develops around the urethra, which is the tube through which urine flows from the bladder to the exterior. The symptoms are the result of the adenoma compressing the urethra.

Prostate cancer

The human body is made up of cells that divide and reproduce throughout our lives. Sometimes, new cells may contain a defect. Cancer occurs when these cells reproduce, creating more and more abnormal malignant cells. Prostate cancer is the fourth most common cancer in both sexes combined, and the second most common cancer in men, with 1.1 million new cases diagnosed worldwide in 2012 (1,111,689 cases identified in 2012 according to the World Cancer Report 20141). However, because prostate cancer is a slow-developing disease that tends to affect older men, fatality rates directly attributable to the disease are reasonably low. With an estimated 307,000 deaths in 20122, prostate cancer is the fifth leading cause of death from cancer in men (6.6% of the total men deaths).

Prostate cancer often develops without any symptoms and is often diagnosed at an early stage by screening. Cancer may also be diagnosed at a later stage when the patient reports symptoms such as a frequent urge to urinate, difficulty urinating or painful ejaculations. Since these symptoms are identical to those of a prostate adenoma, a reliable cancer diagnosis can only be made after several examinations.

Prostate cancer risk factors

  • Age

  • Hereditary factors

  • Ethnic origin

  • Fatty diet

  • Other factors: sedentary lifestyle, obesity, etc.


 (1) ©International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2014  - World Cancer Report

(2) ©GLOBOCAN 2012 (IARC) , Section of Cancer Surveillance (13/3/2017)


Last update 7 February 2017.

  • Glossary
  • Antibiotic
    Drug used to treat bacterial infections by killing the bacteria responsible.
  • Benign
    Not serious. A benign tumor is not a cancer.
  • Bladder
    Organ in which urine accumulates before being expelled from the body.
  • Gland
    Small organ that produces one or more substances in the body.
  • Prostate
    Gland in the male genital system that plays a role in semen production.
  • Prostatic adenoma
    Benign tumor of the prostate that causes it to significantly increase in size.
  • Prostatitis
    Benign inflammation of the prostate, treated with antibiotics.
  • Rectum
    Final section of the large intestine, ending at the anus.
  • Semen
    Fluid released during ejaculation.
  • Seminal fluid
    Liquid comprising secretions from the seminal vesicles and the prostate. It combines with sperm to form semen.
  • Urethra
    Tube leading from the bladder through which urine leaves the body. The urethra also carries semen during an ejaculation.
  • Urine
    Liquid produced by the kidneys that contains waste products not needed by the organism.
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