Ask the Expert: Enlarged Prostate

Dr. Julian Anthony
It's estimated that more than half of all men will develop an enlarged prostate by age 60. While an enlarged prostate can cause unpleasant symptoms like painful and frequent urination, the good news is that it's unrelated to prostate cancer and treatable.

Dr. Julian Anthony, a Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center-affiliated urologist, answers common questions about prostate enlargement, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

What is the prostate?
The prostate is the male reproductive gland that is located below the bladder and surrounds the urethra. The prostate produces some of the fluid that makes up the male ejaculate.

What are the symptoms of an enlarged prostate?
An enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), refers to growth of the prostate gland with age. As the gland grows, it can press on the urethra and cause incontinence, frequent urination (especially at night), difficult or painful urination and a weak urine stream.

What causes an enlarged prostate?
The exact cause is unclear, however, the biggest risk factor is age. Many studies have shown that the byproducts of testosterone are responsible for growth of the prostate with age.

How can I find out if I have an enlarged prostate?
Urinary symptoms are the most accurate predictor. If you have persistent symptoms, see your doctor, who will take a detailed history of your symptoms and perform a physical exam that includes a prostate exam or digital rectal exam (DRE). Lab work, such as a urinalysis or blood work, may also be performed.

Is an enlarged prostate related to prostate cancer?
No. Prostate enlargement and prostate cancer are both more prevalent with increased age, but one is not related to the other.

Prostate cancer does not usually cause symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage. As a result, screening tests are used to detect prostate cancer while it is still at an early stage. The American Urologic Society recommends that men begin getting screened at age 40. African-Americans and men with a first-degree relative with prostate cancer are at increased risk and should be followed by the doctor closely.

What are my treatment options for prostate enlargement?
An enlarged prostate can be managed through medication prescribed by your doctor or surgical procedures to remove the tissue blocking urine flow. Procedures can be performed in a doctor's office or the hospital.

For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's men's health services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about men's health, visit Men's Health in Adult Health or read the Men's Health News archive.