Enlargement of the prostate occurs when the prostate gland's cells start multiplying, leading to inflammation of the prostate gland. Prostate cancer occurs due to the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of the cells present within the prostate gland.
Does Enlarged Prostate Mean Cancer?
Many people think that prostate cancer and enlarged prostate cancer are associated, but it is not right. Enlarged prostate begins from the central part of the prostate gland, while prostate cancer starts in the prostate gland's peripheral zone. Both the conditions may appear common, but they don't cause each other. Prostate cancer is malignant and can spread from the source of its origin to other body parts. On the contrary, an enlarged prostate is benign (non-cancerous) and cannot spread from its original source. 1 out of every 7 men may be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 1 out of every 2 men may be diagnosed with an enlarged prostate in their old age.
What Are the Symptoms of Enlarged Prostate and Prostate Cancer?
Though enlarged prostate and prostate cancer have almost similar symptoms, sometimes it becomes difficult to differentiate the two. The urethra squeezes as the prostate grows due to any reason. This pressure on the urethra prevents the urine from coming out of the body via the urethra. Prostate cancer symptoms generally don't appear until cancer has attained enough growth to pressurize the urethra. Following are some of the common symptoms of an enlarged prostate and prostate cancer:
- Urgent need for urination (urinary urgency)
- Frequent urination or nocturia
- Troubled urination
- Weak urinating system
- Feeling of fullness in the bladder every time.
In the early stages of prostate cancer, symptoms don't appear until they have reached an advanced stage. Prostate cancer patients may notice these symptoms:
- Painful urination with a burning sensation
- Blood in the urine (Hematuria)
- Erectile dysfunction (trouble in erection)
- Painful ejaculation
- Pain in the lower back, pelvic, thigh, and chest
- Blood in semen
- Weakness in legs
How Can Diagnostic Tests Help in Differentiating Between Enlarged Prostate and Prostate Cancer?
Following are some of the tests that may help in distinguishing an enlarged prostate from prostate cancer:
Digital Rectal Examination
In this test, the healthcare professional/ doctor uses his index finger to feel the prostate gland through the rectum's front wall. This is done to check for any abnormality within the prostate gland. If the gland has increased in size, its enlargement may be felt by the doctor with his finger. If the patient has an enlarged prostate, the doctor may feel it as a smooth and firm structure, while if it is prostate cancer, the gland may be felt as a hard and lumpy structure.
Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Assessment
The prostate gland secretes a protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which is normally present in the blood, but its level increases with age. PSA is significantly raised in both enlarged prostate as well as prostate cancer. However, in the case of an enlarged prostate, the rise of PSA is not significant, but in prostate cancer, the PSA elevates significantly.
Transrectal Ultrasound Examination
To perform this test, a probe is inserted into the rectum, and ultrasound waves are used to detect the prostate gland's size and to check tumors. Unless cancer has spread beyond the prostate, this test cannot differentiate between an enlarged prostate and prostate cancer.
Transurethral Resection of the Prostate
Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is a surgical procedure, most commonly used to check an enlarged prostate by removing prostate pieces obstructing nearby structures such as the urethra. The physician preserves a sample of the excess prostate tissue and sends it for further analysis (biopsy) to check cancer.