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Prostate Enlargement

What Is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia?

Last modified: 
17/04/2013 - 14:58

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) stands for benign prostatic hyperplasia which means a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.

  • "Benign" refers to the fact that the growth is noncancerous.
  • The term "prostatic" refers to the prostate gland.
  • "Hyperplasia" describes a condition in which the number of cells in an organ increases, leading to an overall increase in size of the prostate.

The prostate gland is an acorn-shaped gland located in a man's pelvic region. It lies below the bladder, the sac that stores the urine in the body, and surrounds part of the urethra, the "tube" through which the urine passes from the bladder to the outside world.

An enlarged prostate gland is a common condition, affecting the lifestyles and, to some degree, the health of many men over the age of 60. It can play havoc on a man's ability to urinate with ease and, in some cases, can lead to serious medical complications.

However, the condition is not cancerous. And there are many methods to improve the flow of urine if it does become obstructed by an enlarging prostate.

Enlargement in the size of the prostate:

  • Is the result of an increase in the number of cells in the prostate gland
  • May occur at different locations within the prostate and give rise to different prostate shapes

Nice To Know:

Why does an enlarged prostate gland effect the flow of urine?

Abnormal changes in the size of the prostate are important because its closeness to the neck of the bladder, where urine is stored, and the urethra, through which urine passes. can effect the transport of urine.

The capsule surrounding the prostate gland restricts the multiplying cells of the prostate from spreading outward. Therefore, as the prostate enlarges, it may squeeze the urethra, which passes through it, and may also constrict the neck of the bladder. Both actions reduce the flow of urine.

About the prostate gland

  • The prostate lies below the bladder, the sac that stores the urine in the body,and surrounds part of the urethra, the 'tube' through which the urine passes from the bladder to the outside world.
  • The prostate is one of three glands necessary for reproduction. The fluid it produces provides about 15 percent of the total volume of the semen.
  • The exact function of the fluid produced by the prostate remains largely unknown, although it is believed to promote the survival of sperm cells by reducing the acidity within the vagina.
  • The prostate gland consists of about 50 small glandular lobes, which are drained by smaller branched tubes and ducts. The ducts empty into the part of the urethra that passes through the prostate gland.
  • The prostate gland is surrounded by a lining called the capsule.

Nice To Know:

Is BPH related to prostate cancer?

While BPH causes an increase in the number of cells in the part of the prostate gland that surrounds the urethra, this growth is benign, or noncancerous. This is because the cell growth is controlled by the body. In cancer, cell growth is uncontrolled.

Therefore, BPH cannot "turn into" prostate cancer.

However, BPH and prostate cancer can certainly exist side by side. Also, it is possible for a man diagnosed with BPH to develop prostate cancer at a later date.

So it is important for all men over age 50 (or over age 40, for those at higher risk) to have regular checks for prostate cancer as part of their overall wellness plan.

How Common Is BPH?

The prostate gland normally increases in size as men age. This does not usually create a urinary flow problem for men under 40 years of age.

After age 40, however, the prevalence of BPH rises sharply.

  • The incidence of BPH is at least 50 percent for all men at the age of 50.
  • The incidence of BPH rises to at least 80 percent of all men in their eighth decade of life.
  • However, only about 25 percent of men will actually be treated for BPH by the age of 80.
  • Only about 50 percent of men with an enlarged prostate gland have a condition in which there is some degree of obstruction of the bladder outlet.

Of the approximately 300,000 surgical procedures performed each year for BPH treatment, most are for transurethral Performed through the urethra ( the passage through which the urine passes through the penis ) resection of the prostate gland, or TURP.

Facts About BPH

  • Eighty percent of the time, irregularities of the stream of urine during urination, control problems with urination, and an increased frequency of urination -when taken together-are caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
  • The incidence of BPH is at least 50 percent for all men at the age of 50 and rises to at least 80 percent of all men in their eighth decade of life.
  • Only about 50 percent of men with BPH have an obstruction at the outlet of their bladder.
  • Of the approximately 300,000 surgical procedures performed each year for BPH, 90 percent are for transurethral resection of the prostate gland, or TURP.
  • Over 40 percent of individuals with mild to moderate symptoms of BPH have experienced improvement with the watchful waiting treatment option.
  • Almost 90 percent of individuals treated with transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) have experienced an improvement in the symptoms of BPH.
  • Almost 70 percent of the men treated with transurethral needle ablation (TUNA) experienced an average 30 percent improvement in the symptoms of BPH, and over 10 percent experienced a recurrence within a four-year postoperative period that required further treatment.
  • Following surgery for BPH, the incidence of impotence can range between four and 30 percent.
  • The incidence of urinary incontinence following surgery for BPH is one to three percent.
  • The recurrence rate for BPH following medical treatment over a five-year period ranges between 30 and 40 percent.
  • The recurrence rate for BPH following surgical treatment over a five-year period ranges between two and 10 percent.
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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.