Dummies guide to an enlarged prostate

What is an enlarged prostate? Is it a sign of prostate cancer, or a condition in its own right? Find out about the condition from which nine out of 10 men aged over 80 will suffer.

What is an enlarged prostate?
An enlarged prostate simply means that the prostate gland has grown bigger. As the prostate surrounds the urethra (the tube your urine passes through), an enlarged prostate can cause problems with urination. Prostate enlargement happens to all men as they get older – in fact, many scientists believe that all men will suffer from an enlarged prostate if they live long enough. An enlarged prostate is also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Is an enlarged prostate linked to cancer?
BPH is not cancer, nor does it raise your risk of getting prostate cancer.

What causes an enlarged prostate?
Nobody knows for sure what causes an enlarged prostate. It is known, however, that it is linked to age and the presence of testicles. Men who have had their testicles removed at an early age (for example due to testicular cancer) do not get BPH. Similarly, men who have their testicles removed after being diagnosed with an enlarged prostate experience a decrease in prostate size.

Symptoms of an enlarged prostate
Less than half of all men with an enlarged prostate will experience symptoms, however, these include:

  • Incontinence
  • Dribbling at the end of urinating
  • Inability to urinate
  • Inability to completely empty the bladder
  • Needing to urinate at least twice overnight
  • Pain or blood with urination (which may also indicate an infection and should be looked at promptly by a health professional)
  • Difficulty starting to urinate
  • Straining to urinate
  • Sudden urge to urinate
  • A weak urine flow

Diagnosis of an enlarged prostate
There are a number of tests for an enlarged prostate, most of which can be performed by your GP. If you think you may have an enlarged prostate it is important to see your GP as soon as possible, as the symptoms for an enlarged prostate are similar to those of prostate cancer, which can be life threatening.

Treating an enlarged prostate
Treatment for BPH is available, but not always necessary. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, treatment can range from watchful waiting to lifestyle changes, medication and surgery. Men with BPH should be aware that a yearly checkup is necessary to determine whether there are any changes in the prostate, which may necessitate a change in treatment.

More information
You can find out more about BPH at the MedlinePlus website