Prostate problems are fairly common in men of all ages, and they are especially common in older men. Prostate problems can range from simple inflammation to metastatic cancer. It is important to have a basic understanding of the possible problems that can develop in the prostate.
Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Problems
Because of the prostate's anatomic location just below the opening of the urinary bladder, the most common symptoms of prostate problems are urinary symptoms. Urinary hesitancy and urgency, painful urination, and frequent nighttime urination are common symptoms of all prostate problems.
Less common symptoms can also occasionally be experienced.
Any prostate problem can also result in an increased prostate specific antigen (PSA) level in the blood. The more dangerous prostate problems, such as cancer, typically result in higher levels of PSA than noncancerous causes. However, the PSA test alone cannot distinguish between noncancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant) prostate problems.
Noncancerous Prostate Problems
Noncancerous prostate problems are far more common than prostate cancer and are usually not life-threatening. They are not completely without danger, however, and should be taken seriously.
The most common noncancerous prostate problems are:
Prostate cancer is the most dangerous prostate problem, but it can cause the same symptoms as any other prostate problem at first. Oftentimes, prostate cancer is diagnosed before any symptoms are noticed.
Distinguishing Between Benign and Malignant Prostate Problems
It's important to remember that all prostate problems can have the same signs and symptoms. These signs and symptoms cannot be used to distinguish between the various prostate problems. Additionally, the PSA test cannot be used to definitively distinguish between malignant and benign prostate problems, as a great deal of overlap exists in PSA levels between the various conditions.
The only definitive way to differentiate between benign and malignant prostate problems is to seek a prostate biopsy.
Kumar: Robbins and Cotran: Pathologic Basis of Disease, 7th ed. 2005.