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The prostate

The prostate is a small gland about the size of a walnut. It forms part of the male reproductive system. The prostate sits below the bladder and in front of the rectum (the end section of the large bowel). A pair of glands called the seminal vesicles attach to the back of the prostate. The prostate is close to nerves, blood vessels, and muscles that help control erections and urination (the pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter).

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What the prostate does

The prostate produces fluid that helps to feed and protect sperm. This fluid forms part of semen. Semen also contains sperm made in the testicles (testes) and fluid made by the seminal vesicles.

Urethra – This is a thin tube that runs from the bladder and through the prostate to take urine (wee or pee) out of the body. The urethra also carries semen during orgasm.

Ejaculation – When an orgasm occurs, millions of sperm from the testicles move through two tubes near the prostate called the vas deferens. The sperm then join with the fluids produced by the prostate and seminal vesicles to make semen. The muscle around the prostate contracts and pushes the semen into the urethra and out through the penis.

How the prostate grows

The male sex hormone, testosterone, is made by the testicles and controls how the prostate grows. It is normal for the prostate to become larger with age. This may lead to a condition known as benign prostate hyperplasia. Sometimes an enlarged prostate can cause problems, especially when passing urine.

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed in March 2022 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Ian Vela, Urologic Oncologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Queensland University of Technology, and Urocology, QLD; A/Prof Arun Azad, Medical Oncologist, Urological Cancers, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Nicholas Brook, Consultant Urological Surgeon, Royal Adelaide Hospital and A/Prof Surgery, The University of Adelaide, SA; Peter Greaves, Consumer; Graham Henry, Consumer; Clin Prof Nat Lenzo, Nuclear Physician and Specialist in Internal Medicine, Group Clinical Director, GenesisCare Theranostics, and Notre Dame University Australia, WA; Henry McGregor, Men’s Health Physiotherapist, Adelaide Men’s Health Physio, SA; Jessica Medd, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Department of Urology, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Dr Tom Shakespeare, Director, Radiation Oncology, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Lismore Public Hospitals, NSW; A/Prof David Smith, Senior Research Fellow, Daffodil Centre, Cancer Council NSW; Allison Turner, Prostate Cancer Specialist Nurse (PCFA), Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Maria Veale, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council QLD; Michael Walkden, Consumer; Prof Scott Williams, Radiation Oncology Lead, Urology Tumour Stream, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and Professor of Oncology, Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, The University of Melbourne, VIC.