Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or BPH or Enlarged Prostate is non-cancerous growth of the prostate gland, a part of the male reproductive system. It is common in men more than 50 years of age. Although the cause is unknown, it may be related to changes in hormonal levels associated with aging. The prostate surrounds the urethra, which is a part of the urinary system. As the prostate enlarges, the flow of urine tends to gradually get blocked. This increases the risk of bladder infection and stone formation. With prolonged obstruction, kidney damage may develop. Since some over-the-counter medications can increase obstruction in men with enlarged prostates, it’s important to always read the label for men above 50.
Sometimes, but not always, enlarged prostate is associated with cancer of the prostate. Therefore, African American men who develop symtoms of an enlarged prostate should always see a physician, preferrably a urologist, without delay to find out the course. This is very important because African American men are also more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as White men. In fact, all men above 40 years of age should have a rectal examination every year.
If a man develops any of the symptoms below, he should see a doctor without delay in order to:
- Be sure there is no cancer associated with an enlarged prostate, and
- Get treatment before there is long-term damage from obstruction of his urethra.
Symptoms of Enlarged Prostate
- frequent urination
- difficulty in starting to urinate
- incomplete urination
- more frequent urination at night
- dribbling at the end of urination
- passing less urine
- blood in the urine (from straining and breaking small veins)
- lower abdominal pain
- burning on urination (because of bladder infection)
- incontinence (inability to control urination) because of the bladder overfilling
Even if there is cancer associated with an enlarged prostate, if the diagnosis is made early treatment can be effective.
The basic initial screening evaluation for cancer of the prostate consists of:
- A physical examination, which includes feeling the prostate during a rectal examination with the finger (called a digital rectal examination). During the rectal examination, the doctor feels for nodules and tenderness (from possible infection), and
A blood test for prostate-specific antigen or PSA.
Since many men who have enlarged prostates without cancer also have elevated PSA levels, further evaluation may still be necessary. While a variety of treatments are available for benign prostatic hyperplasia, surgery is generally most effective. The long-term results of laser surgery as an alternative to traditional surgery are not yet known.