A brief overview of the differences between BPH and prostate cancer

It is common for both men and women to confuse BPH with prostate cancer. However, it is crucial to understand that these are two distinct conditions with different consequences. Despite their differences, BPH and prostate cancer share a few similarities:

  • BPH and prostate cancer are two conditions that affect the prostate gland, a small gland located under the bladder in men. 
  • Both conditions can cause similar symptoms, such as an enlarged prostate, but they have different characteristics. 
  • It’s common for men to experience these conditions, with around 1 in 9 men being diagnosed with prostate cancer and 1 in 2 men over the age of 50 having BPH.

Understanding BPH

BPH and prostate cancer involve an enlarged prostate gland, but BPH is a noncancerous condition. As men age, their prostate may grow and put pressure on the urethra, leading to symptoms such as frequent urination, urgency, difficulty starting urine flow, and weak stream. BPH is a common condition.

It’s important for men experiencing the symptoms previously mentioned to undergo a thorough physical examination by their doctor to determine the underlying cause. Prostate cancer can present with similar symptoms, so getting an accurate diagnosis is crucial. The doctor can check for an enlarged prostate through a digital rectal exam, during a physical exam. A blood test known as prostate-specific antigen (PSA) can confirm if it’s BPH. It’s worth noting that having BPH doesn’t cause prostate cancer and doesn’t spread to other parts of the body, unlike prostate cancer.

There are two main options for treating BPH: medication and minimally-invasive surgery. The best treatment for you depends on factors such as your prostate size, symptoms, treatment goals, age, and overall health. If medication is ineffective or your prostate is too large, surgery may be necessary to reduce its size.

Understanding prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is men’s most prevalent form of cancer, excluding skin cancer.  It is the second highest cause of cancer-related deaths in men and is more prevalent in African American men than in their white counterparts.  Although the exact cause is unknown, prostate cancer results from the uncontrolled proliferation of prostate cancer cells.

Prostate cancer does not have any symptoms in its early stages. Symptoms only start to appear when the cancer has advanced. These symptoms can be similar to those of BPH but may include other symptoms like the following:

  • Painful or burning urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Painful erection
  • Less fluid during ejaculation
  • Blood in semen

It is essential to have any changes in the prostate evaluated by a doctor. During a physical exam, the doctor may detect nodules or bumps and an enlarged and firm prostate. Blood tests can also indicate higher levels of PSA and alkaline phosphatase. 

Prostate cancer usually progresses slowly and is more common in men over 65. Detecting it early can increase the chances of survival, so treatment options depend on the cancer’s aggressiveness and the patient’s overall health. The treatments include active surveillance, surgery, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy. 


Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911. 

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