When its not Cancer: The Enlarged Prostate: January 26, 2012

While much concern is directed at the prostate, most of it focuses on cancer, but many times the enlarged prostate gland has a far less sinister explanation.

“We’re talking benign prostatic hyperplasia. Essentially as men age, the prostate, which is the gland that sits underneath your bladder and surrounds the urethra, enlarges. Forty-percent of 40 year old men have enlarged prostate, 50% of 50 year old men have enlarged prostate and 60% of 60 year old men have enlarged prostate,” says Dr. Meir Daller, a urologist on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

At age 20 the prostate gland is about the size of a walnut. By the time a man is 40 it may have grown to the size of an apricot. By 60 it could be as big as a lemon. The growth has implications even when it’s not cancerous.

Not considered life threatening, benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH can greatly impact quality of life. The enlarged prostate constricts the urethra, which affects the ability to urinate. Symptoms usually start after age 50.

“Waking up at night several times, two or three times at night. You have difficulty falling asleep again, you have dribbling, you have a weaker stream, and you have a hesitancy,” says Dr. Daller.

The condition is not linked to cancer and doesn’t increase the risk of cancer. At its worst, it can lead to a weak bladder, kidney infections and kidney failure. The condition is treatable by first managing activities, including limiting beverages at night, especially those with alcohol and caffeine. A doctor may also recommend drug therapies to relax or shrink the prostate and finally surgery if the symptoms become too severe. A new procedure called the plasma button dissolves excess tissue without the pains of traditional surgery.

“In this new procedure, you’re using a special gas that essentially vaporizes the insides of the prostate and the end result is the same. The advantage is the faster surgery and the fact that it’s bloodless,” says Dr. Daller.

With an again population, the enlarged prostate will most likely be a growing problem.