Women do not have prostates, but they do have a series of glands and ducts at the front of the vagina called the Skene glands, which are sometimes referred to as the female prostate.
According to researchers, the Skene glands share some of the same properties as the male prostate, which is located between the bladder and the penis. For example, both the prostate and the Skene glands contain prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and PSA phosphatase (PSAP), which are enzymes that can point to the health of the prostate in males.
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The discovery that these glands have similarities has led to the use of the term “female prostate.” So, in a sense, females do have prostates, and as such can get prostrate cancer. Though it is very rare.
What does the female prostate do?
Research into the female prostate is still relatively new, so doctors are not sure of everything the female prostate does. Some studies show that the Skene glands play a vital part in the female urinary system and genitals.
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However, the use of more advanced imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), has given researchers a better scope of how the female prostate works.
Prostate-specific antigen and cancer indications
One area of focus for research is how the female prostate produces PSA. PSA is an indicator of prostate cancer in males and may appear as a symptom of certain types of breast cancer in females.
According to research, checking PSA levels during treatment of cancer in females may be useful in monitoring the treatment for some types of breast cancer.
Prevalence of Female Prostate Cancer
Female prostate cancer is very rare. According to some research from 1994, female prostate cancer accounted for approximately 0.003 percent of all cases of cancer reported in the female urinary tract or genital area.
One study suggested that other cancers in the urinary tract or genitals might originate in the Skene glands. The researchers indicated that further studies might be able to help detect ways to analyze and treat cancers in the genital region.
Symptoms of female prostate cancer
Because it is so rare, doctors may find it hard to diagnose the signs and symptoms of female prostate cancer.
Another problem is that many of the symptoms of female prostate cancer, such as pain, itching, anemia, loss of weight or appetite, are also signs of other more common diseases.
Other symptoms include:
- Pain during sex
- pressure behind the pubic bone
- pain during urination
- menstrual cycle irregularities
- difficulty urinating
- frequent urination
However, these symptoms may also signify other noncancerous conditions related to the female prostate.
These conditions include:
Cysts can form on the Skene glands at any age. When the cysts are straightforward and have no further complications, a doctor can drain the cyst. Cysts will typically clear on their own.
Many potential infections can occur in the urinary tract. Most doctors identify female prostatitis as an infection of the urethra. However, some researchers believe it may be an infection of the Skene glands. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may also spread to the female prostate. Gonorrhea may spread from parts of the genitals.
One major symptom of an adenofibroma on the Skene glands is pain during sex. Adenofibroma is a growth that typically occurs in glandular or fibrous tissues in the body. This noncancerous growth can be removed with surgery.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) occurs when the female hormones responsible for reproduction are unbalanced. Someone with PCOS may also have more male hormones.
Research indicates the Skene glands are larger than normal when someone has PCOS. People with PCOS also have higher levels of PSA.