What’s the Difference Between BPH and Prostate Cancer?

BPH vs. Prostate Cancer

Two conditions cause an enlarged prostate – prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The two disorders cause similar symptoms but otherwise are not related. Neither condition increases the risk of the other condition. To better understand these two disorders, let’s discuss each separately.

What Is BPH?

Enlarged prostate, called benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH, is a noncancerous condition that is common among men over age 50. Doctors consider BPH to be a normal part of male aging.

While the cause is unknown, it’s believed that changes in male sex hormones may be at work. The cells in the prostate gland start to multiply, which causes the prostate gland to swell – squeezing the urethra, the tube that allows urine to exit the body. This limits the urine flow, which can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms.

If you have a family history of prostate problems or any abnormalities in your testicles, you may be at higher risk of BPH. BPH symptoms are typically mild, but later become serious when untreated.

Symptoms include:

  • Frequent nighttime urination
  • Urine leakage
  • Dribbling
  • Hesitancy
  • Weak urinary stream
  • Urgency to urinate
  • Slowed urinary stream
  • Painful urination

Diagnosing BPH

To check for BPH, the doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your medical history. The physical exam includes a rectal examination to help determine the prostate’s size and shape. Tests may include:

  • Urinalysis to check for blood and bacteria.
  • Prostatic biopsy to examine for abnormalities.
  • Urodynamic test to measure the pressure of your bladder during urination.
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test to check for prostate cancer.
  • Post-void residual to check urine left in your bladder after urination.
  • Cystoscopy to examine your urethra and bladder using a tiny scope inserted into your urethra
  • Intravenous pyelography or urography, an X-ray or CT scan of your entire urinary system.

Your doctor will ask about medications you’re taking that might affect your urinary systems, such as antidepressants, diuretics, antihistamines, and sedatives.

Your doctor will make any medication adjustments, including dosage changes. Don’t attempt to make your own adjustments to medications. If you make any changes, monitor your symptoms for at least two months to notice any improvement.

What Is Prostate Cancer?

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Prostate cancer is a prevalent form of cancer that occurs in the prostate, a small walnut-shaped gland producing seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.

Prostate cancer grows slowly and is typically confined to the prostate gland. The cancer may not cause serious problems if it grows gradually; some men don’t require treatment or only minimal therapy. However, in some cases, prostate cancer is aggressive and spreads quickly.

Diagnosing Prostate Cancer

When prostate cancer is detected early, still within the prostate gland, there is a good chance of success with treatment.

  • Physical exam: During your physical exam, your doctor might notice that your prostate feels nodular or bumpy as well as firm and enlarged — a sign of cancer.
  • Blood tests: If your blood tests show high prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and alkaline phosphatase, these are also signs of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer can affect any part of the prostate. In advanced cases, prostate cancer can spread to the bones, but usually only travels to areas within the pelvis.

While it’s not clear what causes prostate cancer, doctors know that prostate cancer begins as other cancers do — when prostate cells become abnormal. Mutations in the abnormal cells’ DNA cause the cells to grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells do — forming a tumor that can invade nearby tissue. Abnormal cells can spread to other parts of the body.

The risk of prostate cancer increases as you get older, and family history can increase your risk. Black men tend to have a greater risk of prostate cancer, and the cancer is often more aggressive or advanced.

BPH vs. Prostate Cancer: A Comparison

Researchers don’t believe the BPH causes prostate cancer, or that it is even a risk factor. It is possible (and very common) to have both conditions at the same time.

Both prostate cancer and BPH can cause an enlarged prostate, along with common urination symptoms frequency of urination, hesitancy, dribbling, and frequent nighttime urination. But that’s where the similarities end.

When you have an annual physical, your doctor may check for both conditions. You may have both a rectal exam and PSA test. If you have an enlarged prostate, or if your PSA test is high, you may need a biopsy to determine if you have prostate cancer or BPH.

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