Prostate, a walnut-sized gland, plays a significant role in the reproductive health of every man.
As men age, they face a higher risk of developing problems that affect the prostate.
Some conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia BPH, are widely discussed, but others not as much.
Bearing in mind this month is dedicated to men’s reproductive and sexual health, we’re going to address a serious problem – prostate nodule. Read on to learn more about it.
What is a prostate nodule?
The prostate nodule is defined as a lump or area of hardness under the surface of a man’s prostate.
In some instances, a patient can have prostate stone under the surface of the skin, and although it may seem like a nodule, it’s not the same thing as nodules are more like tissue masses.
While prostate stone is harmless, even though it’s uncomfortable, nodule represents an abnormal growth of cells, which may or may not be cancerous in nature.
Understanding there is a lump on the prostate is a primary source for concern among men, but you shouldn’t panic. Instead, schedule an appointment to see your doctor who will perform specific diagnostic tests to see what’s going on.
The best way to stay on top of everything is to go to regular checkups even if you have the normal prostate.
Prostate cancer vs. prostate nodule
People tend to use terms nodule and tumor or cancer interchangeably, but they’re not the same. Knowing the difference can help you stay calm until your doctor diagnoses the problem.
Essentially, a nodule is any lump or mass of cells, while the tumor is a larger growth. In most cases, doctors use a term tumor to describe cancerous growth on the prostate.
Feel free to ask the doctor to explain if you’re not sure whether he or she is talking about nodule or tumor.
Prostate nodules can be benign or harmless and malignant or cancerous.
Cancerous nodules are the masses of abnormal cells that can spread to surrounding tissues and lymph nodes. Timely diagnosis is vital for successful management and recovery.
What causes a prostate nodule?
Prostate nodules can develop due to an array of causes. Identifying the cause allows doctors to develop a treatment plan to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. Below, you can see the reasons behind the formation of prostate nodules.
Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the prostate, and it is a common problem today. Estimates show that 174,650 cases will be diagnosed in 2019, and 31,620 deaths will occur due to this severe disease.
Prostate cancer doesn’t develop overnight, but forms slowly and gradually. In the early stages, the disease is localized, but as it advances, it can spread to seminal vesicles and other tissues.
At this point, the underlying cause of the disease is unknown, as scientists aren’t sure what propels the growth of abnormal cancer cells. Mutations in the DNA of abnormal cells can make them multiply out of control.
While every man can develop prostate cancer, some men are at a higher risk than others. Common factors that increase the risk of prostate cancer include aging, family history, obesity, and race (African American men are more likely to have prostate cancer).
Early prostate cancer may not induce any noticeable signs at all. As the disease is progressing, various symptoms of prostate cancer may occur, such as:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Trouble urinating
- Bone pain
- Decreased force in urine flow
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Blood in semen
Prostate cancer treatment depends on various factors, such as how fast the disease is growing, the severity of the condition, and others. Men with low-risk localized prostate cancer may not need treatment at first, and doctors usually recommend active surveillance.
Active surveillance refers to monitoring the disease in its localized stage until the doctor feels the additional treatment is needed.
However, in other cases, the doctor suggests an adequate type of treatment for the condition.
The goal is to prevent cancerous cells from multiplying uncontrollably so that the disease doesn’t spread to other lymph nodes.
Bearing in mind that diagnosing the disease in the early stages is crucial, men should undergo prostate cancer screening at least once a year. This way, you can tackle the problem when it’s highly treatable and thereby reduce the risk of spreading to lymph nodes.
Prostatitis is swelling and inflammation of the prostate gland, and it accounts for 8% of visits to a urologist. Still, prevalence could be higher if we bear in mind that many men are reluctant to see the doctor for their prostate-related problems.
The most common cause of prostatitis is a bacterial infection, but nerve damage in the lower urinary tract can also contribute to this problem.
Not all cases of prostatitis are the same; we can identify several types such as:
1) Acute bacterial prostatitis – occurs suddenly and happens due to bacterial infection, the least common type of the condition.
2) Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis – usually doesn’t exhibit symptoms and treatment.
3) Chronic bacterial prostatitis – a bacterial infection.
4) Chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome – the most common type of the disease, tends to come and go without a warning.
Risk factors associated with prostatitis include:
- Being young or middle-aged
- History of prostatitis
- Prostate biopsy
- Having HIV/AIDS
- Pelvic trauma
Signs and symptoms of prostatitis depend on the cause, but most men experience:
- Flu-like symptoms (when caused by bacterial infection)
- Pain and burning sensation when urinating
- Painful ejaculation
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Urgent need to urinate and other urinary problems
- Pain in the abdominal area, groin, and lower back
As you can see, this problem displays similar signs as urinary tract infections. The treatment of prostatitis depends on the underlying cause. Doctors usually recommend antibiotics, anti-inflammatory agents, and alpha-blockers (to relax the bladder neck and the muscle fibers where the prostate joins the bladder).
Prostate calculi (stones)
Stones can also feel like lumps to the touch, although they’re not as serious as tumors or cancer.
Prostatic calculi are small, brownish-grey stones as big as the poppy seed. A man can have one prostate stone or much more than that.
This problem is common in men who are middle-aged or older, particularly in men with BPH (enlarged prostate), prostate cancer, and chronic prostatitis.
Symptoms of BPH may include:
- Frequent need to urinate
- Dribbling at the end of urination
Speaking of this condition, it’s useful to clarify the term hyperplasia, as most people don’t know what it means. Well, it is the enlargement of an organ or tissue caused by an increased rate of cell reproduction.
Some men may not experience any symptoms at all, but others do. Common signs and symptoms associated with prostate calculi include pain in the lower back, penis, and trouble urinating.
In many cases, prostate stones don’t need treatment as they pass on their own in the urine. However, in cases when men experience symptoms, the doctor may recommend antibiotics.
Surgery is the last resort and only performed in cases when prostate stones are bigger, and symptoms don’t go away with other approaches.
Other causes of a prostate nodule
As seen above, the prostate nodule can develop due to various causes whose severity ranges from mild to life-threatening (but manageable). You are probably wondering whether there are any other causes behind these nodules, and the answer is yes.
The nodules can also occur due to abnormalities in the rectum, e.g., hemorrhoids, but also because of the infarct, an area of dead prostate tissue occurring due to loss of blood supply.
Prostate nodule develops gradually, and it doesn’t pop up suddenly. In the early stages, a man may no experience any symptoms at all.
The actual signs and symptoms depend on the underlying cause that induced the growth of the tiny lump.
But generally speaking, most men experience pain in the pelvic area and urinary symptoms such as the urgent need to go to the bathroom (especially at night), burning sensation, among others.
When you don’t ignore the symptoms, the doctor can diagnose the problem right away and treat it fast. For example, if cancerous cells are the problem, timely treatment can prevent it from reaching lymph nodes. Below, you can see the tests that doctors usually order to exam men with the prostate nodule.
The biopsy is only performed when the doctor suspects a man has prostate cancer. For the purpose of the biopsy, samples are obtained from different parts of the prostate.
As technology evolves, this diagnostic test keeps improving, as well. For instance, a doctor may perform an MRI-guided biopsy where MRI is taken, and the image evaluated to identify suspicious areas.
Usage of MRI images to guide the process improves the detection of cancer prostate tumors that require treatment. If results show an advanced stage of the disease, then the doctor can recommend radical prostatectomy to tackle the problem.
Digital rectal exam
The digital rectal exam is the standard test to examine the prostate. The actual exam takes 10 to 15 seconds, and a man may experience mild discomfort, but it’s over quickly. During the exam, the doctor checks the lump to confirm its presence. The rectal test involves the insertion of a finger to check the prostate.
Prostate-specific antigen or PSA test is a blood test that checks for high levels of PSA, a protein produced by the walnut-sized gland. High levels of this protein indicate prostatitis, prostate cancer, or an enlarged prostate. Results from the PSA blood test may also help the doctor determine whether other exams are necessary.
Multiparametric MRI is a diagnostic test mainly used to identify the presence of cancerous growth. It includes high-resolution T2WI and at least two functional MRI techniques.
This is a relatively novel diagnostic approach that was introduced to decrease overdiagnosis and provide more accurate results. This exam may be recommended when PSA testing shows abnormal values.
In case the patient is diagnosed with prostate cancer, he is allowed to ask for the second opinion just to be sure. The same goes for treatment options such as radical prostatectomy.
Once the doctor diagnoses the cause of the prostate nodule, he or she recommends a treatment that works to alleviate symptoms such as pain and problems with urination.
At first glance, prostate nodules seem scary, especially when you feel the lump. That’s when people think of all the worst scenarios, but that doesn’t have to be the truth.
As shown above, in the article, the prostate nodule doesn’t automatically mean cancer. It can develop due to a wide range of reasons. The outlook depends on the cause of the nodule, severity of symptoms, and treatment approach.
Fortunately, the evolution of technology, medicine, and science made these problems more manageable, and prostate cancer isn’t the exception. With a timely diagnosis of prostate cancer and a good treatment plan, it’s entirely possible to beat this disease and delay progression to advanced prostate cancer.
When talking about the outlook, it’s also important to highlight the importance of active surveillance to keep the condition under control and prevent complications.
The prostate nodule is a lump under the surface of the skin on a man’s prostate. Knowing there is a lump can make men go in a panic mode, but you should stay calm.
Nodules can develop due to different reasons, so the best thing to do is to schedule an appointment to see the doctor who will carry out necessary tests to determine the underlying cause of the lump.
The outlook depends on the severity of the disease, but it’s important to bear in mind that prostate nodule isn’t necessarily cancer.