Benign prostatic hyperplasia (also known as BPH) is a non-cancerous condition in which the prostate is enlarged. BPH affects men from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds and may affect men as early as their 40s.
R. Charles Welliver, Jr., M.D.
Associate Professor of Surgery, Department of Urology, Albany Medical College, Spokesperson, American Urological Association
BPH is not cancer — it is a benign or non-cancerous growth — but your medical provider may perform a prostate exam and order blood tests to ensure your urinary symptoms or enlarged prostate aren’t caused by prostate cancer.
The urinary symptoms that an enlarged prostate may cause can take on many forms. The urinary stream may weaken, you may feel like you are not emptying your urinary bladder, or you may feel that you are going to the bathroom too frequently. Whatever your urinary symptoms might be, you should consult with your medical provider to determine if you would benefit from treatment. Your medical provider may then refer you to a prostate specialist (a urologist) who can provide additional testing or supply information on treatment options.
How we treat men with BPH has evolved with new technologies, medications, and surgical techniques over the years. With the increased use of BPH medications in the 1990s, procedures for BPH were often postponed or delayed. Many men had a good response to medications with relatively few side effects. However, contemporary thought has somewhat changed regarding how to treat men suffering from BPH symptoms. With prolonged or incompletely treated BPH symptoms, men may have deterioration in the function of the bladder muscle, which squeezes to help men urinate. Unfortunately, when this muscle weakens, it generally cannot regain its strength. This irreversible bladder dysfunction leads to men not getting the full benefit of an eventual BPH procedure.
An increasing number of urologists are now advocating for earlier and definitive treatment of BPH symptoms instead of a prolonged course of medications. This earlier treatment means men are having procedures at younger ages (when they are better surgical candidates) and not suffering from untreated (or undertreated) symptoms for years on end. Recent improvements in the safety and tolerability of BPH treatment options have made this an easy transition for many men, as these procedures may be administered in the physician’s office with excellent and durable results.
While we search for an effective BPH prevention strategy, men should know that treatments exist and that delaying your care may worsen your long-term outcomes. Consider seeing your medical provider if you have bothersome urinary symptoms. Don’t just assume you have to suffer with these symptoms because they are “part of normal aging.”