The prostate gland is positioned along the path from the bladder to the penis. The urethra, which a thin tube that runs from the bladder through the penis to carry urine and sperm, also runs through the prostate. The prostate produces fluid (prostatic fluid), which is secreted at the time of ejaculation. Prostatic fluid is alkaline (also known as basic) and helps to neutralize the acidic environment of the vagina, therefore helping sperm to survive after ejaculation. The prostate also has some muscle fibers--which are involuntary muscles, not the type that you can control--that help to release semen during ejaculation.
The prostate can become a problem in three major ways: enlargement, infection, and cancer. As a man ages, the prostate tends to enlarge. Because the urethra runs through the prostate, an enlarged prostate tends to cause difficulty with urination--men may experience incomplete bladder emptying, urinary frequency or hesitancy, or frequent awakening at night to urinate. The prostate can become infected, causing symptoms of a urinary tract infection
: pain with urination, urinary frequency or urgency, blood in the urine, and sometimes fevers. As you mention, the prostate can also develop cancer. Your primary care doctor
can speak with you more about performing a physical exam of the prostate if you are concerned about prostate cancer. A urologist
is the type of doctor who specializes in prostate problems.