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What is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia?

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jul 05, 2021

What is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia?

The prostate gland is a gland that secretes a fluid that helps protect sperm cells. As men grow older, it can sometimes become enlarged, causing a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH.

This is one of the reasons why men at age 50 or older should ideally get their prostate checked since BPH can cause a number of problems. The symptoms of BPH vs prostate cancer can also be similar, so getting the prostate checked is very important.

What is benign prostatic hyperplasia?

BPH is another term for an enlarged prostate gland. It is a fairly common condition in older men, and usually is not a cause for concern. However since the prostate is located right behind the bladder, it can sometimes cause urination problems.

If the prostate is too enlarged, then it can potentially damage the bladder, and make the bladder prone to infection. There is also the possibility of having blood in the urine, as well as kidney damage if it grows too large.

One important thing to remember is that while the symptoms of BPH vs prostate cancer can sometimes overlap, having BPH does not necessarily cause prostate cancer. BPH is a benign condition, though it is possible to have both BPH and prostate cancer at the same time.

What causes BPH?

The reasons for an enlarged prostate are not well-understood, but scientists believe that it has something to do with hormonal imbalance as men grow older.

One possible reason is that as men grow older, they produce less testosterone, which causes an imbalance in the levels of testosterone and estrogen in the body. It is believed that estrogen might cause the cells in the prostate to grow and enlarge.

One thing for certain is that about 50% of men between the ages of 50 to 60 have BPH. It is a common condition, and as men grow older, the possibility of having BPH increases.

What are the symptoms of BPH vs prostate cancer?

The symptoms of BPH vs prostate cancer can be very similar, since prostate cancer also causes the prostate to enlarge due to the abnormal growth of cells. 

Here are some of these symptoms that they have in common:

  • Difficulty trying to urinate, or a slow trickle of urine.
  • An urge to urinate often, especially at night.
  • Your urine stream gets interrupted, or it starts then stops.
  • Needing to make an effort to push out urine.
  • Erectile dysfunction can also sometimes be a symptom.

However, since prostate cancer results from abnormal cell growth, there are certain symptoms that those with BPH do not experience.

Here are some of those symptoms:

  • Painful or burning sensation when you are urinating.
  • If you discover blood in your semen, or in your urine.
  • Pain in the back, near the hips and pelvis.
  • It is also possible to be in the early stages of prostate cancer, but not experience the symptoms that are exclusive to it. The symptoms of BPH vs prostate cancer can be mistaken for each other, and getting tested can sometimes be the only way to know if you have cancer.

    While cancer is a major health concern, it is still very important for people with BPH to be mindful of their health. This is because the symptoms of BPH can sometimes get worse, and cause further problems to the urinary tract, and the kidneys.

    That is why it is important for men aged 50 and older to get their prostate checked, and to talk to their doctor if they experience any peculiar symptoms. Early detection can greatly lower the risk of these diseases.

    How can BPH be prevented?

    There is no known way to prevent BPH, especially since scientists are still unsure as to what causes it exactly.

    However, it is believed that having a healthy diet and staying fit can potentially lower the risk of having BPH. This is because having excessive fat in the body can increase hormone levels, and this might increase the risk of having BPH.

    Diabetes and heart disease have also been known to increase the risk of BPH, so staying healthy and engaging in daily exercise can potentially lower the risk.

    It is also possible that someone who is healthy and fit can suffer from BPH, so it is important for men to get their prostate checked when they get older.

    How can BPH be treated?

    It is possible for someone to live with BPH and not entirely be bothered by it. However, as men get older, the prostate does get larger, which means that eventually, the symptoms could progressively get worse.

    Here are some of the more common treatments for those with BPH:

    • Your doctor can prescribe you drugs to help relax the muscles in the prostate to make urination easier.
    • There are also drugs called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors which can help slow down the growth and eventually shrink down the prostate.
    • Surgery is also an option, and what type of surgery is required depends on how severe the BPH is. Usually, excess tissue in the prostate is removed, and this tissue is also checked for any cancerous growth.
    • In very severe cases, removing the prostate might be necessary. But this can be a risky procedure, so other procedures might be done first before this option.

    Others opt for what is called “watchful waiting” wherein the person with BPH observes their symptoms, and goes to the doctor for annual checkups. If the symptoms become too much of a problem, that is when they opt for treatment.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jul 05, 2021

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