Overview of Conditions that Affect the Prostate Gland

Benign prostatic hyperplasia

When a man reaches his mid-40s, the area of the prostate that encircles the urethra begins to grow. This overgrowth of prostate tissue is called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. With continued growth, the expanding prostate may constrict the urethra, causing symptoms such as difficulty starting urination or a weak urine stream.

BPH occurs in approximately 31 percent of men between the ages of 50 and 59, 36 percent of men age 60 to 69, and 44 percent of those who are age 70 and older. Not all of these men experience urinary tract problems related to BPH, but many do. Although BPH can cause a number of bothersome symptoms, it is not life threatening.

Prostate cancer

Cancer of the prostate is a much more serious health problem than BPH. After skin cancer, it is the second most common cancer in American men and is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer deaths. In 2010, an estimated 218,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and about 33,000 died of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

The good news is that today, reliable diagnostic tests and numerous treatment options are available, and death rates from prostate cancer are now on the decline. Nearly 100 percent of men are still alive five years after a prostate cancer diagnosis, more than 93 percent are alive 10 years after diagnosis, and approximately 79 percent are alive 15 years after diagnosis.

Although the symptoms of prostate cancer are similar to those of BPH, the conditions are not related. Having BPH neither increases nor decreases a man's risk of prostate cancer. In addition, it is possible for a man to have both conditions at the same time.

Prostatitis

Also known as inflammation of the prostate, prostatitis is common and often frustrating. It can cause pain in the lower back and in the area between the scrotum and rectum (the perineum) and may be accompanied by chills, fever, and a general feeling of malaise. Nearly half of all men will develop prostatitis at some point in their lives.

Publication Review By: H. Ballentine Carter, M.D.

Published: 08 Apr 2011

Last Modified: 24 Apr 2013