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What to Know About the Prostate Cancer TURP Procedure


Updated July 03, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Spain, Basque Country, Gipuzkoa, San Sebastian, Hospital Donostia, Surgeons performing prostate surgery
Javier Larrea/age fotostock/Getty Images

Transurethral resection of the prostate, better known as the TURP procedure, has been used extensively for many years to treat men who have benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH or sometimes simply called "enlarged prostate"), but it also can be used to treat symptomatic prostate cancer.

Who Could Benefit from a TURP Procedure?

The TURP procedure is used mostly to relieve urinary symptoms.

The TURP procedure is used most commonly in men with BPH who have significant problems urinating despite trying medication.

It can also be used to treat men with prostate cancer who have problems urinating. The TURP procedure cannot be used to cure prostate cancer because it removes only the parts of the prostate that are closest to the urethra, while leaving the majority of the gland intact.

Because the TURP procedure, when used in men with prostate cancer, is meant to relieve symptoms but not to cure the cancer, it is called a palliative procedure.

What Is the TURP Procedure?

A TURP procedure involves the removal of the portions of the prostate gland immediately surrounding the urethra.

To do this, a surgeon inserts an instrument known as a resectoscope into the penis, through the urethra, and up to the prostate. Once positioned correctly in the prostatic portion of the urethra, the resectoscope uses an electrically activated wire loop to cut the nearby prostate tissue away. The procedure does not require an incision through the skin.

The procedure requires general anesthesia (you are unconscious) or a type of anesthesia that results in numbing of the lower half of your body. Overall, the procedure takes roughly one hour.

Following the surgery, a catheter will be inserted into the bladder and left there for a few days to ensure that urine can pass freely out of the body. Most men need to stay in the hospital for a few days following surgery.

Potential complications or side effects of the TURP procedure include blood in the urine, infection, post-operative pain, and all of the potential complications associated with anesthesia.


Rassweiler J, Teber D, Kuntz R, Hofmann R. Complications of transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP)--incidence, management, and prevention. Eur Urol. 2006 Nov;50(5):969-79; discussion 980. Epub 2006 Jan 30.

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