Most people are aware that men can develop prostate cancer, but can women have prostate cancer? The answer is, “Yes, sort of.”
While women don’t have a prostate gland, they have what are called the Skene glands (sometimes written as Skene’s glands). This group of glands and ducts is at the front of the vagina and is similar in some ways to the prostate, including that it contains prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and PSA phosphatase (PSAP), two enzymes that doctors use to assess the condition of the prostate in men.
Women can develop cancer in the Skene glands and, given the structures’ similarity to the prostate, the condition is sometimes referred to as “female prostate cancer.” It’s extremely rare, but it can occur. One older study found that prostate cancer in women accounted for just 0.003% of all genital cancers.
What Are the Signs of Prostate Cancer in Women?
The signs of prostate cancer in women include:
- Painful urination
- Blood in the urine or passing from the urethra
- Pressure behind the pubic bone
- Frequent urination
- Menstrual cycle changes
- Pain during sex
- Difficulty urinating
Besides cancer, there are other conditions related to the Skene glands that your doctor will consider in making a diagnosis. They include:
What’s known as prostatitis in men can occur in women as an infection of the Skene glands. In the past, this condition was sometimes diagnosed as an infection of the urethra. However, doctors today are increasingly aware of the Skene glands as a possible site of infection.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Skene glands are larger than normal in women who have PCOS. They may also have higher levels of PSA.
The Skene glands can develop cysts. They typically resolve on their own, but in some cases must be drained.
This type of noncancerous growth, which can occur on the Skene glands, can cause pain during sex. These growths can be removed with surgery.
Women and Prostate Cancer: How Baptist Health Can Help
If you’re experiencing symptoms you feel may be caused by gynecologic cancer, Baptist Health can help. We provide services for assessing and treating various types of cancer in women. You can also learn more on our Gynecologic Cancer page and find a doctor near you.