Prostate Diseases

Basic Facts

The Prostate Gland 

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It wraps around the urethra, which is a tube that carries urine out of the bladder (the organ that holds urine) when a person urinates (passes urine from the body).

In men, the urethra also carries semen (fluid that contains sperm) out of the body during ejaculation (sexual climax for men). The prostate adds prostatic fluid to the semen when a man ejaculates. The muscles in the prostate gland contract to force the semen out of the body.

Common Prostate Diseases

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

BPH is the most common prostate disease in men over the age of 50. About half of men over age 60, and 90 percent of men age 85 and over have BPH. It is one of the most common health problems for older men.

BPH happens because the prostate gland grows larger over time. If it grows enough to place pressure on and compress the urethra, problems will occur leading to:

  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Urgency of urination
  • Nocturia (waking up at night to urinate)
  • Difficulty starting urination
  • A weak or interrupted urine stream
  • Inability to urinate or empty the bladder completely
  • Leaking or dribbling of urine

Symptoms of BPH tend to get worse over time. However, some men’s symptoms may stay the same, or even improve. Some of these symptoms may require treatment.

Complications of BPH include:

  • Infections
  • Bladder stones
  • Problems with storing and releasing urine
  • Kidney problems


Prostatitis is a painful inflammation of the prostate gland. It is the most common disease of the prostate in men under the age of 50, but it may also occur in older men. About 8 percent of men will have prostatitis at some point in their lives. Two types of prostatitis exist:

  • Acute (happens quickly) prostatitis responds quickly to treatment. 
  • Chronic (happens gradually) prostatitis comes back and may last for months.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a frequent cancer among older men. Every year, up to 200,000 men in the U.S. are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and up to 30,000 men die because of it. 

  • About one in every six men will have prostate cancer at some time during their lives.
  • Prostate cancer is more common in older men. It is rare in men under the age of 40, but about 46 percent of men over the age of 70 are thought to have it.
  • Black men have a higher risk of getting prostate cancer and dying from it.

Prostate cancer can cause death. However, many prostate cancers grow very slowly and do not spread beyond the prostate; this type of cancer may never cause symptoms or affect health in older men. Many men who have prostate cancer eventually die of problems that are not related to the cancer itself, though some prostate cancers spread quickly to other parts of the body.

An overlooked population is transgender women who still have prostate tissue. They may experience prostate cancer, for example.


Last Updated March 2023

Back To Top