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What Is the Prostate Gland?The prostate gland, a key part of the male reproductive system, is linked closely with the urinary system. It is a small gland that secretes much of the liquid portion of semen, the milky fluid that transports sperm through the penis during ejaculation.
The prostate is located just beneath the bladder, where urine is stored, and in front of the rectum. It encircles, like a donut, a section of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder out through the penis. During ejaculation, semen is secreted by the prostate through small pores of the urethra's walls.
The prostate is made up of three lobes encased in an outer covering, or capsule. It is flanked on either side by the seminal vesicles, a pair of pouch-like glands that contribute secretions to the semen. Next to the seminal vesicles run the two vas deferens, tubes that carry sperm from the testicles. The testicles, in addition to manufacturing sperm, produce testosterone, a male sex hormone that controls the prostate's growth and function.
A diagnosis of prostate cancer means that cancer cells have formed in the tissues of the prostate. Prostate cancer tends to grow slowly compared with most other cancers. Cell changes may begin 10, 20, or 30 years before a tumor gets big enough to cause symptoms. Eventually, cancer cells may spread (metastasize) throughout the body. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer may be more advanced.
Most prostate cancer never poses a problem. There are either no signs or symptoms, or the disease never becomes a serious threat to a man's health. A much smaller percentage of men are actually treated for prostate cancer. Most men with the condition, however, do not die from this disease.