According to the CDC, around 13 men in every 100 will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives. It’s the second most common cancer after breast cancer. Similarly, half of all males over 50 and 70% of males over 60 will experience problems associated with an enlarged prostate. So, is there a connection?
The technical term for an enlarged prostate is benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH. So the clue as to whether there is a definitive connection may be in the name – ‘benign’.
BPH is, in effect, a non-cancerous (benign) prostate gland enlargement typically caused by genetics, testosterone and, of course, aging. Prostate cancer, on the other hand, occurs when cells in the prostate mutate into cancer cells. Both conditions can result in an enlarged prostate, but BPH is not cancer.
Given that both conditions facilitate an enlarged prostate, the next logical question is:
Does an enlarged prostate mean you stand a greater chance of developing cancer?
In a word, no!
There is no evidence to support the fact that BPH causes cancer. BPH is a different condition altogether. The only similarity is that both develop in the prostate - although an enlarged prostate starts in the central part of the gland while prostate cancer develops in the peripheral zone.
Of course, that’s not to say you can’t have both conditions, but to be clear, they are not the same and are in no way connected.
So why would we assume the conditions are connected?
It has a lot to do with prostate growth.
The growth of a prostate
The key fact is that prostate growth is normal.
When a man is in his 20s, the prostate gland will typically start the size of a walnut. By the time he reaches 40, the prostate grows to the size of an apricot; by the age of 60, that increases to the size of a lemon.
Because of this natural growth, the prostate can feel like it’s pressing on the bladder as we age. This, in turn, causes a more frequent need to urinate and is one of the symptoms of prostate cancer – hence the confusion.
To find out more, we need to dig a little deeper into the symptoms of both conditions to make a better comparison.
Prostate cancer symptoms vs BPH
We’ve already mentioned that some of the symptoms of an enlarged prostate and prostate cancer are similar, so let’s take a closer look at each.
Firstly, the main symptoms of prostate cancer are as follows:
- Urination problems, including the need to urinate more often or a weak urinary stream
- Traces of blood in the urine or semen
- Erection difficulties
- Lost control of bladder or bowel movements
- Weakness or numbness in the legs and feet
- Pain in the back, hips and chest
Conditions may appear similar, but they are mainly based on urination. They include the following:
- Trouble starting a urine stream
- Frequent urination
- A feeling that the bladder is never empty
- Pushing or straining when urinating
- A sudden or intense urge to urinate
- Blood in the urine
As you can see, there is a slight overlap in conditions and many differences. For example, pain in the back and hips is often a sign that the cancer is pushing on the spinal cord or spreading and is not generally associated with an enlarged prostate (BPH).
When a patient has BPH, the enlarged prostate narrows the opening to the urethra. This leads to an enlargement of the bladder- known as bladder hypertrophy - and impingement in the proper flow of urine. Bladder hypertrophy is why symptoms or conditions associated with an enlarged prostate are primarily urine-based.
Some patients develop a hard prostate, which is usually an indicator that they have a nodule or tumor. Again, these can be benign, so having a hard prostate doesn’t always mean you have cancer. It can also be a sign of prostate stones.
Stones develop around the prostate and are typically caused by blockages due to inflammation or BPH. Studies investigating prostate stones found that 80% are made of calcium phosphate and are generally not cancerous.
When should you see a doctor?
It’s worth noting that a person with prostate cancer can be symptom-free, making the disease hard to spot. Symptoms are often minimal and localized until the cells spread into other parts of the body and cause discomfort.
Therefore, many prostate cancer patients are diagnosed only when they visit the doctor with symptoms surrounding urination. As early cancer detection makes treatment more effective. You must see your doctor as soon as you notice anything different with how and when you use the bathroom. Chances are, the diagnosis will be an enlarged prostate, but either way, the earlier the diagnosis, the easier and more effective the treatment.
How to treat an enlarged prostate?
One of the most effective ways to treat BPH is a ground-breaking treatment known as Prostate Artery Embolization (PAE for short). PAE is a non-surgical, outpatient treatment that shrinks the enlarged prostate over time, allowing you to regain control of your life.
At the Midwest Institute of Non-Surgical Therapy (MINT), Dr. Akinwande is a vascular, endovascular and board-certified interventional radiologist. He is only one of a handful of specialists adopting prostate artery embolization in the Midwest.
If you’re fed up with urination problems and have been diagnosed with BPH, talk to Dr A about this ground-breaking treatment with proven results.
Call 314-255-2204 or schedule an appointment at a MINT clinic of your choice. One simple appointment can help you get your life back on track. Patients can choose from 5 locations, including Chicago, IL.