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The prostate gland is a small gland located between the bladder and the penis. The gland secretes some of the fluid that makes up semen and also helps propel the ejaculate through the urethra. Sometimes, the prostate can become enlarged as a result of age-related changes. This condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, and it's the most common cause of prostate gland enlargement. Less often, an enlarged prostate can develop as a result of infection-related inflammation (prostatitis) or prostate cancer.
Some men have an enlarged prostate without experiencing any symptoms, but when symptoms do occur, they can include:
If an enlarged prostate is caused by an infection, urination may be painful or there may be blood in the urine.
The digital rectal exam (DRE) is the most common way to diagnose an enlarged prostate. In this exam, a gloved and lubricated finger is inserted into the rectum to gently palpate the gland and determine if it feels enlarged or abnormal. A blood test may also be ordered to check for a substance called prostate-specific antigen or PSA. Elevated levels of PSA have been associated with prostate cancer in some men. A biopsy may be performed in patients in whom prostate cancer is suspected. Other methods to evaluate the prostate include ultrasonography and/or cystoscopy.
When an enlarged prostate occurs as a result of BPH, treatment may include medication, microwave or laser therapy to shrink the gland or other minimally-invasive procedures to remove all or a part of the gland. When an underlying infection is present, it will be treated with antibiotics. There are multiple treatment options for prostate cancer including radiation, surgery, freezing, ultrasound, hormonal, or a combination of approaches.
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