BPH vs. Prostate Cancer: What’s the Difference?

A man talks to his doctor

BPH vs. Prostate Cancer: What’s the Difference?

Do you understand the difference between BPH and prostate cancer? If you aren’t quite sure, you’ve come to the right place.

In the realm of men’s health, understanding the intricacies of the prostate is crucial. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer are two conditions that predominantly affect the prostate gland, often causing confusion due to their somewhat overlapping symptoms.

Let’s look more closely into the distinguishing aspects of BPH and prostate cancer, shedding light on their differences in anatomy, diagnosis, symptoms, and long-term consequences, thereby empowering individuals to make informed decisions regarding their prostate health.

Can BPH be mistaken for Prostate Cancer?

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer are two conditions that predominantly affect the prostate gland, sometimes causing confusion.

BPH is characterized by the noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland, while prostate cancer involves the malignant growth of prostate cells. Moreover, Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) levels, a common indicator used in screening for prostate cancer, can be influenced by both conditions, adding to the complexity.

It can sometimes be challenging to differentiate prostate cancer vs. BPH, particularly in the early stages of evaluation. This is primarily due to the fact that both conditions affect the prostate gland and can cause similar changes in Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) levels.

PSA is a protein produced by the prostate, and its levels are often measured through a blood test to screen for prostate cancer. However, BPH, being an enlargement of the prostate, can also cause an increase in PSA levels, which may lead someone to mistakenly think they have prostate cancer. That is to say, it’s hard to tell if a patient is facing BPH vs. prostate cancer from PSA levels alone, and more tests are often needed.

Additionally, when a prostate is enlarged due to BPH, it can make it more challenging for healthcare professionals to detect prostate cancer through physical examination or traditional biopsy. This is because the enlargement can somewhat mask the presence of cancerous growths, making the proverbial needle in a haystack (cancer) harder to find in a bigger haystack (enlarged prostate).

To accurately differentiate between BPH and prostate cancer, a more targeted approach is often needed. For instance, using imaging tests such as MRI can help in visualizing the prostate and guiding biopsies to specific areas of concern. Moreover, understanding the patient’s symptoms, and medical history, as well as utilizing additional diagnostic tests, can help in making a more accurate diagnosis.

Symptoms of BPH vs. Prostate Cancer

A doctor talks about BPH vs prostate cancer

Understanding the symptoms associated with BPH and prostate cancer can be helpful for early detection and effective treatment. Interestingly, while BPH often presents with noticeable symptoms, early-stage prostate cancer typically does not.

Some of the most common symptoms of BPH include:

  • Difficulty in starting to urinate
  • Weak urine flow
  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate, especially at night
  • Feeling that the bladder is not completely empty after urination

BPH symptoms often come on gradually, and as a result, some patients may not realize how bad their BPH is.

Prostate cancer, as we said above, in its early stages usually does not present with any symptoms. When symptoms do appear, prostate cancer may be in an advanced stage. Possible symptoms of advanced prostate cancer include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain or discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Bone pain
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Unexplained weight loss

As you can see, there’s a difference in the symptoms of prostate cancer vs. BPH symptoms in terms of severity.

Long-term Consequences of Untreated BPH vs. Prostate Cancer

Untreated BPH can lead to complications such as bladder damage, urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder stones, and in severe cases, kidney damage. While these complications can greatly affect quality of life, BPH is generally not life-threatening with modern medicine.

Untreated prostate cancer is far more severe. It can spread locally to nearby tissues and can also metastasize to distant organs and bones, causing pain and life-threatening complications including organ failure. Regular medical check-ups and timely treatment are vital in managing both conditions.

Prostate Laser Center is helping to pioneer the use of focal laser ablation for the treatment of BPH. We have treated many men with this technique, and have submitted a study for publication (as of June 2023) to help others to understand the potential of laser prostate treatment for BPH.

Seeking treatment options for prostate cancer or BPH? Request a consultation today.

NOTE: The information provided on this website is general medical information and does not establish a physician-patient relationship. Please discuss your particular situation with a qualified medical professional.

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