BPH and Prostate Cancer

Men who have an enlarged prostate gland or difficulty urinating may may jump to the conclusion they have prostate cancer. There are other conditions other than cancer, however, that may cause these symptoms. They also require medical attention.

Normal prostate changes

Two common changes in a man's prostate are part of the normal aging process: prostatis and BPH.

Prostatis, or inflammation of the prostate, is common among men 50 or younger. About 50 percent of men will experience prostatis at some point in their life.

BPH can also produce an enlarged prostate and is more likely to strike after 50. BPH stands for benign (non-cancerous) prostatic hyperplasia (or hypertrophy). By age 60, many men have signs of BPH. By age 70, almost all men have some prostate enlargement.

Treating BPH

On its own, BPH is not serious. Left untreated, however, it can progress into conditions that are more dangerous. Most men with BPH do not develop prostate cancer, although men with prostate cancer may also have BPH.

Typical indications of BPH are usually changes in urination: frequency, urgency, starting urination, or the flow of urine. These symptoms are similar to those of prostate cancer symptoms.

The symptoms of BPH may be mild and not warrant treatment. About 50 percent of men with BPH do eventually seek medical relief. Doctors cannot cure BPH, but they can treat it. Historically, surgery was the only real treat option for BPH. Now, it's one of several options. If your symptoms are not severe, you and your doctor may take a wait-and-see approach, monitoring symptoms for change. Your physician may prescribe drugs to alleviate your discomfort and manage the condition. Fortunately, there are also non-surgical procedures doctors can use to treat the prostate directly.

Scientists have identified genetic differences between types of BPH and prostate cancer. They've found that the prostates of men with BPH are similar to areas of BPH in prostate cancer patients, suggesting a possible link. Certain genes associated with inflammation are similar in patients with BPH and BPH patients who also have cancer. Understanding the genetic component of diseases helps researchers develop new therapies to alleviate symptoms based on the specific type of BPH.

Earlier this year, there was a report that Botox injections—yes, the same treatment used to reverse cosmetic signs of aging—provided long-term symptom relief for BPH. These studies are still in the early phase and Botox is not available for general treatment of BPH. The reports do suggest that new therapies may be forthcoming.