While women do not have prostates, 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.
Researchers have discovered that 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 indicate the health of the prostate in males.
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 female prostate cancer is technically possible. It is, however, extremely rare.
Research into the female prostate is still relatively new, so doctors are not sure of everything the female prostate does. But some research indicates that the Skene glands play an important part in the female urinary system and genitals.
However, the use of more advanced imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), has given researchers a better understanding 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.
Female prostate cancer is extremely 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 identify ways to diagnose and treat cancers in the genital region.
Doctors may find it difficult to recognize the signs and symptoms of female prostate cancer because it is so rare.
Another problem is that many of the symptoms of female prostate cancer, such as pain, itching, loss of weight or appetite, and anemia due to bleeding, are also signs of other more common diseases.
Other symptoms include:
- pressure behind the pubic bone
- pain during urination
- pain during sex
- 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. Some research, however, indicates that it may be an infection of the Skene glands. The report also adds that an infection of the Skene glands requires different treatment to infections in other parts of the urinary tract or genitals.
Adenofibroma is a growth that typically occurs in glandular or fibrous tissues in the body. One symptom of an adenofibroma on the Skene glands is pain during sex. 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 a larger than normal number of male hormones.
Research indicates the Skene glands are larger than normal when someone has PCOS. People with PCOS also have higher levels of PSA. Elevated levels may help doctors identify PCOS since this hormone comes from the Skene glands.
The Skene glands are often referred to as the female prostate because they produce the same hormones as the male prostate. Both are believed to play a role in the female and male reproductive systems. Though male prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, female prostate cancer is rare.
Female prostate cancer has proven challenging to study and diagnose. In most cases, symptoms affecting areas around the Skene glands are due to underlying conditions in other parts of the urinary tract or reproductive system.