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Prostate Cancer: Enlarged Prostate

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How Is BPH Diagnosed?

After evaluating your medical history and giving you a complete physical, your doctor will perform a digital rectal examination.

Because the prostate gland is in front of the rectum, the doctor can feel if the back of the gland has any abnormalities during this examination. This enables the doctor to estimate the size of the prostate and to detect any hard areas that could be cancer.

Several studies may be done to help diagnose your condition:

  • A urine test called a urinalysis
  • A seven-question BPH Symptom Score Index survey to evaluate the severity of your symptoms
  • A flow study to measure how slow the urinary stream is compared with normal flow
  • A study to detect how much urine is left in the bladder after urination is done

How Is BPH Treated?

Patients with mild symptoms may not require treatment other than watching to make sure their condition doesn't worsen. This approach is sometimes called "watchful waiting" or surveillance. A number of treatment options are available if your symptoms are severe.

Treatments for BPH Include:

  • Medication. Proscar (finasteride) was one of the first drugs used to treat BPH by shrinking the prostate gland. Avodart (dutasteride) is another similar drug that can be used for the same purpose. They both work by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which affects the growth of the prostate gland. These medications appear to be most helpful for men with larger prostates. The FDA is revising labels on Proscar and Avodart to include a warning that the drugs, while capable of reducing overall prostate cancer risk by 25%, may be linked to an increased risk of an unusual type of aggressive or high-grade prostate cancer. 

More common are drugs, referred to as alpha blockers, that relax the muscle in the prostate to reduce the tension on the urine tube. These include Hytrin, Cardura, Uroxatral, and Flomax. Side effects include light-headedness and weakness. Taking both a DHT inhibitor and an alpha blocker at the same time can be more beneficial at controlling symptoms and preventing the progression of BPH than taking either drug individually.

  • Surgery. A number of surgery types can remove the prostate tissue blocking the flow of urine. The most common is called transurethral resection of the prostate, or TURP. It involves removing the tissue blocking the urethra (urine tube) with a special instrument. Although TURP is effective, side effects may include bleeding, infection, impotence (inability to maintain an erection suitable for sex), and incontinence (inability to control the flow of urine). Another, less complicated procedure is transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP). Instead of removing tissue, as with TURP, this approach involves widening the urethra by making several small cuts in the bladder neck (area where the urethra and bladder join), as well as in the prostate gland itself. This relieves some of the pressure on the urethra and improves urine flow.
  • Minimally Invasive Treatments. Newer treatments can effectively reduce the size of the prostate and relieve urinary obstruction, but are less invasive and damaging to healthy tissue than surgery. In general, less invasive procedures require less time in the hospital, result in fewer side effects, are less costly, and allow for quicker recovery. Side effects may be urinary frequency and irritation while the prostate is healing. However, many of these techniques are new. Little is known about the long-term effectiveness and complications of these procedures.

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