What’s The Difference Between BPH And Prostate Cancer?

The prostate gland plays a critical role in reproductive health, being responsible for secreting prostate fluids. The fluid mixes with sperm, which then creates semen.

The prostate fluid also helps to nourish sperm, improving the chances of reproduction.

However, certain conditions can affect the prostate gland, interfering with the gland’s ability to produce prostate fluids. This can lead to several problems, such as issues with fertility and the urinary tract.

Two common conditions that affect the gland include prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia.

While one condition can become fatal, the other rather leads to unpleasant symptoms. We look at the difference between the two conditions in this post.

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What Is BPH?

We will start by considering what benign prostatic hyperplasia is. The condition is common in men and the risk of developing it increases as men age.

One study1 explains that the risk significantly increased once a man reaches the age of 40. The prevalence of an enlarged prostate may be as high as 60% among men aged 90 years and older.

So, what is BPH? Benign prostatic hyperplasia refers to an enlargement of the prostate gland2. There are several reasons why this may happen. The condition is called benign, as it is not related to cancer.

The enlargement often causes the prostate gland to push against the urethra. This creates a constriction in the urinary tract. This is why a lot of men experience urinary symptoms when they have an enlarged prostate gland.

What Is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed types of cancer. The condition can cause a range of different symptoms, that can be uncomfortable and painful in many cases.

Prostate cancer can affect the quality of a man’s life. When diagnosed and treated early on, the prognosis is often positive, and the disease is treatable successfully in many cases. Becoming educated about prostate cancer symptoms in men is important.

Prostate cancer is most common in older men. The condition is most prevalent among men older than 50. It can, however, develop at any time. There are rare cases of men under 40 diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Men of all ages should be aware of the symptoms associated with prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is not rated as one of the deadliest types of cancer. The survival rate of this cancer is actually quite high. This is the case, especially when compared to the average survival rate of other cancers.

According to the National Cancer Institute3, approximately 161,360 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in 2017. This amount of cancer diagnosis will account for approximately 9.6% of all cancers.

When it comes to the prognosis of prostate cancer, the five-year survival rate of patients diagnosed with this cancer is 98.6%. This data accounts for patients diagnosed with the disease in 2007.

It accounts for the survival rate of those affected patients up until the year 2013. Approximately 4.4% of cancer-related deaths are caused by prostate cancer. Furthermore, an estimated amount of 26,730 deaths in 2017 caused by this particular type of cancer.

What Are The Symptoms Of BPH And Prostate Cancer?

Symptoms of BPH vs. prostate cancer are sometimes similar. Many people do not experience early symptoms of prostate cancer. This is why a regular physical examination is important.

A healthcare professional can often detect prostate cancer at a very early stage. This is sometimes possible even before symptoms develop.

A treatment plan administered to the patient may be much more successful compared to later diagnosis. Changes in prostate tissue can be identified with certain tests. Some tests can be done in the doctor’s office.

According to The Truth About Cancer4, some earlier signs may signal prostate cancer. Men are advised to be wary of these signs. They should see a healthcare professional should they be experiencing any of these particular problems.

These earlier signs of prostate cancer mostly relate to the patient’s urinary tract. Bladder function can also be affected. Men may find that they have difficulty urinating. There may also be a need to urinate more frequently, or urination may become painful. Some men find that bladder control is reduced. There may also be a reduction in urinary flow.

Hematuria can also occur. This condition refers to blood being present in the urine.

Even though these are all considered early signs of prostate cancer, they do not provide a definite diagnosis for prostate cancer.

Cancer.net5 explains that symptoms related to prostate cancer can be divided into two categories. These would include symptoms of prostate cancer itself, as well as symptoms of prostate cancer metastasis, which is a term used to describe prostate cancer that might have spread out of the prostate and toward other areas of the affected man’s body.

We have already talked about the fact that prostate cancer could cause men to urinate more frequently. In addition to this, men may find that they need to visit the bathroom more frequently during night time, which may become bothersome when they are trying to sleep (nocturia). Some men also find that it does not feel like they can completely empty their bladder.

Men may also find that blood could start to appear in their seminal fluid. Urination may become painful, and the man may find that it is uncomfortable or even painful for them to sit down.

We should also note that prostate cancer can cause a man to experience erectile dysfunction; thus, when a man suddenly starts to experience erectile dysfunction with no obvious factors that may be causing this problem, then it might also be a sign of prostate cancer.

When cancer spreads, it can become a deadly condition and usually causes the treatment plan to be much more complicated. Thus, men should be wary of signs that their prostate cancer is spreading as this needs to be attended to immediately, or their disease may become untreatable.

Signs of metastasis-related to prostate cancer should also be noted. These can happen in a man already diagnosed with prostate cancer. Symptoms may include :

  • Sudden weight loss without following a particular diet or cutting back on calories to help the man lose weight.

  • Painful symptoms in areas other than the prostate. Common areas where pain may be experienced when prostate cancer is spreading include the thighs, the shoulders, the hips, and the back. Even though these are the most common areas, other particular parts of the body can also be affected.

  • The legs and feet may develop edema. The term describes a collection of fluid that becomes trapped within different parts of bodily tissue. Note that inflammation of the legs and feet, even when it is not accompanied by trapped fluids, should also be a concern amongst men who have already been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

  • A sudden change in bowel movements should also be noted. This particular symptom may signal the spread of cancer from the prostate of the man toward his colon. This could cause the development of colon and rectum cancer. The disease is often referenced as colorectal cancer.

  • With benign prostatic hyperplasia, symptoms can be very similar. Urination problems are common with an enlarged prostate. The condition often affects the urinary tract. Men often find that they need to urinate more frequently. Nocturia is also common in men with an enlarged prostate. A man may also find it more difficult to initiate urination.

Other signs include:

  • Dribbling after urination

  • Men may not be able to completely empty their bladder

  • The urination stream may be weak

  • Sometimes, the urination stream starts and stops continuously

Prostate enlargement can sometimes lead to complications. This includes a urinary tract infection.

Urinary retention is also possible. Men may sometimes also experience blood in their urine. In rare cases, a man’s ability to urinate may be completely inhibited. The inability to urinate can cause serious problems.

What Causes Each Condition

Understanding the causes of each condition is important. This helps a man to know why they might have developed a particular disease in the first place. We take a look at the causes behind each condition below.

  • Prostate Cancer: Researchers are still trying to find out what exactly causes prostate cancer. It is known that the condition occurs when cells start to mutate and grow at an accelerated rate. Abnormal cells in the prostate have been linked to this cancer. These cells contain damaged DNA, which causes them to grow and multiply faster than normal cells. These cells will also not die like normal cells. They would rather continue to live in the prostate gland.

  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia: Sometimes, benign prostatic hyperplasia is considered normal in older men. The exact cause behind the condition is still somewhat of a mystery to researchers. It is known that sex hormones seem to have a role to play. Sex hormone production changes with age. This is linked to the increased prevalence of BPH among older male patients. There also seems to be evidence that problems with the testicles might actually affect the prostate gland too. Thus, specific conditions related to the testicles might increase the likeliness of an enlarged prostate.

What Are The Risk Factors?

Several risk factors have found to make a man more likely to develop these conditions. Again, it is essential to divide the risk factors into two categories.

Risk factors for each disease tend to be different. By understanding these risk factors, a man can better determine how likely they may be to develop an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer.

Age plays a role as a risk factor with both of these conditions. Apart from age, we outline some other risk factors men should realize below.

  • Prostate Cancer: A family history of prostate cancer increases a man’s risk of the condition. Certain genetic changes also play a role in the risk of prostate cancer. It has also been found that certain eating habits seem to increase the risk of prostate cancer too. HBOC (Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome) has also been linked to a higher risk of the disease.

  • Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: There also seems to be a genetic link with an enlarged prostate. Men with a family history of BPH are at a higher risk of the condition. Certain conditions also increase the risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia. These risks include metabolic syndrome and obesity. A diet that is high in red meat and fats have also been shown to increase the risk of an enlarged prostate. A lipid disorder has been associated with an increase in the risk of this particular condition too.

Is BPH A Risk Factor For Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer and BPH has a few similar symptoms. This can often be confusing for a man who experiences these issues. The urinary tract symptoms are often very similar. It can also make a man concerned about which one of the conditions they could be suffering from.

A lot of men are concerned about prostate cancer when they are diagnosed with benign prostatic hyperplasia. It is important to consider the fact that an enlarged prostate is regarded as a benign condition. This means there is an enlargement of the prostate, but the cells in the gland are not cancerous.

Men should also understand that there is no direct relationship between benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer. When diagnosed with BPH, a man’s risk of prostate cancer is not increased.

How Is Each Condition Diagnosed?

Screening for prostate problems is important. This becomes essential, especially when considering the fact that prostate cancer often does not cause early symptoms. It is crucial to understand how these conditions are diagnosed.

A physical exam is conducted initially. A doctor also asked about symptoms. This includes urinary incontinence, acute urinary retention, and if the man has erection problems.

A digital rectal exam is often the first diagnostic tool. This procedure is done during a regular health examination at a physician. The physician will place a finger, covered in a glove, into the man’s rectum. This allows them to identify any abnormalities with the prostate.

If a man complains about symptoms related to any of these conditions, the doctor may also advise the patient to undergo a digital rectal exam.

Certain tests are often conducted when an abnormality is identified. This can include blood tests and imaging tests. These tests help the physician determine what condition is affecting the male patient’s prostate. It helps the physician distinguish between prostate cancer and BPH.

The doctor also needs to rule out other conditions, such as prostatitis. Infection should also be ruled out.

These tests will also help a physician identify the best treatment. For BPH, this may include the use of certain medicines. Sometimes a prostate TURP is needed. Prostate cancer treatment depends on whether the disease is localized or spreading to other areas of the patient’s body. A urologist may sometimes be included in the treatment process. Medications may be used in the treatment of prostate cancer.


There are several ways that men can possibly prevent both BPH and prostate cancer. When looking at preventing prostate enlargement or cancer, it is important to consider the risk. Some steps that men can take to minimize their risk of these conditions include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

  • Eating healthy meals and reducing the intake of unhealthy foods

  • Participating in physical activities frequently

  • Men who smoke should give up this habit

  • Limiting the consumption of alcohol

  • Reducing exposure to compounds known to increase the risk of prostate cancer

  • Increasing fluid intake may also help

These factors will not only help to prevent BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia). They might also help avoid the complications of BPH in a man already diagnosed.

They could help ease an overactive bladder. In men with prostate cancer, lifestyle changes could do more than just improve urinary symptoms like frequent urination. They could reduce the risk factors for the disease, leading to a lower chance that the man would even need invasive surgery.


Both benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer are common conditions in men.

An enlarged prostate tends to adversely affect the urinary tract. This causes the urethra to become constricted. It may interfere with a man’s bladder health too.

Complications can develop when benign prostatic hyperplasia goes untreated. Prostate cancer is considered a more serious disease. While the prognosis is often positive, there are thousands of men who die from the condition each year. Early symptoms often do not develop. The disease is most often identified through regular screening.

Understanding the difference between the two conditions is important. This can help a man understand what to expect when they receive a diagnosis. It also helps the man know what treatment options can help treat the condition they are diagnosed with.

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  1. Asian Journal of Urology. (2017) Epidemiology of clinical benign prostatic hyperplasia. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5717991/
  2. Mayo Clinic. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/benign-prostatic-hyperplasia/symptoms-causes/syc-20370087
  3. National Cancer Institute. Cancer Stat Facts: Prostate Cancer. [online] Available at: https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/prost.html
  4.  The Truth About Cancer. (2019) 4 Early Warning Signs of Prostate Cancer. [online] Available at: https://thetruthaboutcancer.com/warning-signs-of-prostate-cancer/
  5.  Cancer.Net. (2019) Prostate Cancer: Symptoms and Signs. [online] Available at: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/prostate-cancer/symptoms-and-signs

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  1. Hal Lehner

    I noticed there was no mention of the PSA test?