What Is Prostate Masssage?

S. Adam Ramin, M.D.

Prostate massage is unlike most types of "massage" you might be accustomed to hearing about. It's performed by a medical doctor or licensed health care provider (not a massage therapist) as a way to release fluids from the prostate ducts. In some cases, this procedure can have health benefits, but prostate massage is not a procedure that, in general, promotes health or prevents prostate cancer. However, it can be helpful in certain specific medical situations, either as a diagnostic tool or in the case of chronic prostatitis.

It's essential first to understand what the prostate gland is and the bodily functions it contributes to. The prostate is a small golf ball-sized gland located below the bladder and between the base of the penis and the rectum in men. The prostate gland is vital to the male reproductive system and responsible for the production of a fluid that keeps sperm functioning and protected in the seminal fluid.

[See: What's the Best Diet for Prostate Cancer?]

Several conditions can affect the prostate gland in men, most notably:

-- Prostate cancer.

-- Prostatitis.

-- Enlarged prostate.

There are a variety of ways these conditions are diagnosed in men, including:

-- A digital rectal examination.

-- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

-- Prostate biopsy.

-- Prostate ultrasound.

[See: Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Prostate Cancer.]

For some of these tests, a sample of prostate fluid is required, and this is where prostate massage can be helpful.

To perform a prostate massage, the doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum (as would be done with a digital rectal exam). This is the location from which he or she accesses and then massages or presses on the prostate. The procedure itself does not take long but may feel slightly uncomfortable. When used for diagnostic purposes, the expressed prostate fluids that leak out of the penis after a vigorous prostate massage can be collected for testing. For example, expressed prostate fluid (EPF) can be sent for culture to look for prostate infection in some patients with prostatitis. EPF can also be submitted for molecular testing to check for the likelihood of prostate cancer, a test called PCA-3.

Chronic prostatitis is a condition that is characterized by inflammation of the prostate gland. When this gland becomes inflamed, symptoms can include painful urination or ejaculation, blood in the urine, groin, rectal or abdominal pain, as well as a generally "ill" feeling throughout the body. A subgroup of patients who have chronic prostatitis that is not caused by a bacterial infection gain relief from pressure or symptoms by undergoing periodic prostate massage.

Some people believe that prostate massage has cancer-fighting benefits. While prostate massage has not been proven to prevent prostate cancer directly, it may be used to reduce prostate inflammation. Reduction of prostate inflammation may decrease the risk of cancer in some patients with chronic prostatitis. Also, the EPF may be collected for testing to determine if an individual is at risk of having prostate cancer.

[See: 10 Things Younger Men Should Know About Prostate Cancer.]

In some cases, men have chosen to give themselves a prostate massage. This can be dangerous if the prostate is massaged too roughly. This procedure should not be painful. It's important to note that in certain patients, vigorous prostate massage can cause pain and other symptoms. These may include a tremendous amount of burning with urination, irritation and possibly dissemination of pre-existing bacteria from the prostate into the bloodstream. Therefore, prostate massage must be performed judiciously by urological health professionals. Urologists are trained and experienced in this technique, and they understand the physiology and function of the prostate gland.

S. Adam Ramin, M.D., is a board-certified urologist and founder and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles. He is a medical staff member at prestigious medical centers such as City of Hope National Medical Center, in Duarte, California, where he has served as Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Department of Urologic Oncology, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he performs robotic laparoscopic prostatectomy.

Dr. Ramin received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1990 from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a double-major in biochemistry and philosophy. He went on to complete postgraduate training with an internship and residencies in general surgery and urology at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California. He performed his fellowship training in urological oncology at the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, California. Upon completing his extensive medical education and training, Dr. Ramin established his private medical practice in the Los Angeles area.

He became a contributor to U.S. News in 2017, covering a range of prostate cancer, urologic cancer and urological health-related topics. As an expert in prostate cancer and robotic laparoscopic prostatectomy, Dr. Ramin has published numerous textbook chapters, peer-reviewed articles, abstracts and presentations on prostate cancer and urological health subjects. He is certified by the American Board of Urology in Robotic Assisted Urologic Surgery and Urologic and Oncology and Laparoscopic Surgery, and he has trained numerous urologists in techniques of minimally invasive laparoscopy and robotic surgery. Dr. Ramin is a past president of the Los Angeles Urological Society and is a member of numerous professional medical societies including The American Urological Association, American Medical Association and American Society of Laparoscopic Surgeons.

Dr. Ramin is a frequent medical expert contributor to mainstream media publications and news outlets, including local ABC and Fox television affiliates, as well as national online publications such as MSN, Yahoo, Women's Health, Men's Health, Huffington Post and Reuters Health. Visit his website or connect with Dr. Ramin on Facebook or Twitter.