If you’re like most men, you never think about your prostate gland unless there’s a problem. Why should you? You also walk around without thinking about most of the body parts that help you function, things like rotator cuff, lungs, vocal cords, small intestine, etc. All of us take for granted that our physical systems are in decent working order—until they’re not.
Most of the time, what’s going on inside of us is not in our conscious awareness. Even if symptoms occur, our knowledge about the inner workings of our bodies is generally superficial. When we receive early warning signs that a breakdown may be occurring, we (males in particular) often initially ignore or push past them. If they don’t go away, or even worsen, suddenly we may find ourselves headed toward a crash course of deeper knowledge about one or more anatomic structures.
Behind the scenes
I thought it would be instructive to share some information about the prostate that goes behind the usual size-of-a-walnut urethra-hugging seminal-fluid-producing scenes. Such facts are readily available as the ABCs of the prostate gland. For a more intimate and hopefully fun look at the prostate, I dug up some relatively obscure information.
- Most male mammals have a prostate, which is considered an accessory sex gland. In fact, being the proud owner of this gland is something humans share with a wide range of animals, including our fellow primates. In addition, some meat-eaters (dogs, weasels, ferrets, bears), sea mammals (whales and porpoises), and most vegetarians and insect-eating mammals (elephants, cattle, rabbits, moles and rodents, to name a few) all have prostate glands.
- Depending on the species, the prostate may be a single structure having two conjoined lobes that encircle the urethra (true for primates and some carnivores) or three completely separate lobes (true for rodents, rabbits and others).
- Besides producing male sexual fluids, the prostate contains muscles that have mechanical functions. During orgasm the muscles contract to expel seminal fluid from the prostate ducts (tiny channels) into the urethra (tube from the bladder to the tip of the penis); at the same time, in preparation for orgasm, it closes off the sphincter muscle at the base of the bladder so that urine cannot enter the urethra and mingle with seminal fluid. Having such a prostatic on/off switch to separate ejaculate from urine explains why most men with find it hard to pee with an erection.
- You may know about PSA (prostate specific antigen) in connection with a blood test that screens for prostate cancer (PCa). But do you know how the prostate gland actually uses this protein that it manufactures? PSA is mixed with seminal fluid in the prostate ducts. As the prostate and other muscles contract to ejaculate seminal fluid, PSA acts as an enzyme to make the fluid runnier, allowing sperm entering a vagina to move more easily toward their goal. Higher-than-average amounts of PSA circulating in the bloodstream are a sign of increased prostate gland activity or stimulation, and thus can be a warning sign of infection, inflammation, or even PCa. Before a scheduled PSA blood test, men are advised to refrain from orgasm for a day or two beforehand, since orgasm can temporarily raise PSA blood levels.
I hope you found this peek at little-known prostate information interesting. Perhaps you’ll occasionally give a thought to the importance of prostate health, and men’s health in general. I invite you to visit our blog posts that cover concerns ranging from PCa to broader issues such as nutrition, exercise, anxiety and stress management. Our Center’s philosophy includes recognizing the whole person, of which the prostate gland is a small but very important part.
NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.