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Decision Aid for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What do I need to know about decisions for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)?

You can work with your healthcare provider to make decisions about being screened or treated for BPH. Screening is a test done to find BPH early. Screening is different from diagnosis. Screening is used if you are at increased risk for BPH but do not have symptoms. This means management or treatment can start early. You can also help plan treatment if BPH is found with screening, or you develop it later on. Your treatment choices include nonsurgical options and surgery. Your healthcare provider may recommend nonsurgical treatments first. Learn about the benefits and risks of nonsurgical treatment and surgery so you can make an informed choice.

What do I need to know about BPH?

  • BPH is an enlarged prostate. The prostate is normally the size of a walnut and wraps around the urethra. An enlarged prostate will press on the urethra. This may cause problems with storing urine or emptying your bladder completely.
    Male Reproductive System
  • BPH is common in men older than 40 years. The risk increases with age.
  • Benign means it is not cancer. BPH is not a life-threatening condition, but it can cause problems with your daily activities. BPH usually gets worse over time. Left untreated, BPH can also lead to blood in your urine, bladder stones, or kidney failure.

Am I a good candidate for BPH screening?

Screening may be helpful for you if any of the following is true:

  • You are 40 years or older.
  • You have a family history of BPH or other prostate problems.
  • You have a medical condition such as a heart disease or type 2 diabetes, or you are obese.
  • You do not get much physical activity.
  • You want to have treatment as early as possible if needed.
  • You take a beta-blocker medicine.

How is screening done?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and family history of prostate problems. If you are at increased risk, your provider may use any of the following to check for BPH:

  • The International Prostate Symptom Score is a set of questions about your ability to urinate over the past month. You will be asked how often you have any of the following:
    • Urinating 8 or more times each day
    • A feeling of not fully emptying your bladder when you urinate
    • An urgent need to urinate that you could not put off, or urinating again within 2 hours
    • Being woken from sleep because you needed to urinate
    • Trouble starting your urine flow, or a need to push or strain to get it to start
    • Urine that stops and starts several times when you urinate
    • A weak urine stream, or dribbling after you urinate
  • A digital rectal exam is used to check the size of your prostate. Your healthcare provider will insert a gloved finger into your rectum. The provider will be able to feel your prostate. The exam may be repeated over time to check the prostate size.
  • A PSA test is used to measure the amount of a protein made by your prostate gland. A blood sample is taken for this test. A high PSA level can increase your risk for more severe urination problems or the need for surgery.

What are the benefits and risks of screening?

Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of screening:

  • Benefits include finding BPH early. This means you can make more decisions about treatments. The PSA test can also find prostate cancer early. Treatment of prostate cancer is more successful when it starts early.
  • Risks include a false belief that you will not develop BPH if your screening result is negative. Even though your screening result is negative, you may still develop it later on. You may also need more tests if you have problems urinating but screening shows you do not have BPH.

What questions should I ask my healthcare provider to help me make decisions about screening?

  • How high is my risk for BPH?
  • How often do I need to have screening?
  • Where is the screening done?
  • Do I need to do anything to get ready to have screening?

What happens after I have screening?

You will meet with your healthcare provider to go over the results of your screening. You may need more tests to diagnose anything that showed up on the screening test. Common tests include a urine test to check for an infection or a biopsy (tissue sample) to check for cancer. You may also need tests to measure the amount of urine left in your bladder after you urinate. The force of your urine flow may also be measured. You and your healthcare provider can talk about your treatment options. Together you can decide which treatment is right for you.

How is BPH treated, and what are the benefits of treatment?

  • Watchful waiting means you do not receive treatment right away. Your signs and symptoms will be monitored over time to see if they get worse. You may be asked to keep a record. The record will include when you urinate, how easy or difficult it was, and any changes in urination. You will bring the record to follow-up visits. Your healthcare provider may also recommend ways to improve your symptoms during watchful waiting.
  • Medicines may be given to help your symptoms and to prevent BPH from getting worse. Medicines may help relax certain muscles to make it easier for you to urinate. You may also need medicine to make your prostate smaller or to relieve an overactive bladder. Medicines may start to relieve your symptoms quickly. Medicines can improve your quality of life. You may also be able to manage your symptoms without surgery if medicine keeps your BPH from getting worse.
  • A procedure may be used to place a stent into your urethra to hold it open. A stent is a short, tiny mesh tube. A prostatic urethral lift, or UroLift, may be used to hold the prostate away from the urethra. This makes the urethra wider so urine can pass through more easily.
  • Surgery may be used to relieve your symptoms if other treatments do not work. An ablation is surgery that uses a needle to destroy extra tissue that is causing your symptoms. A laser may instead be used to destroy the tissue. Your prostate may be heated. A tool that gives off heat is inserted into your urethra. Prostate tissue is destroyed, and no other tissues are damaged. Parts of your prostate may be removed during another type of surgery.

What are the risks of BPH treatment?

  • Watchful waiting may allow BPH to get worse and be more difficult to treat than at an early stage. If you have a high PSA level, you may need to have BPH treated right away.
  • Medicines can cause certain side effects, such as erectile dysfunction (ED) or a lowered sex drive. You may also develop urinary retention (trouble starting your urine to flow). Some medicines can cause hypotension (low blood pressure) when you stand, or dizziness.
  • Surgery can damage tissue around your prostate. Surgery can also increase your risk for trouble urinating, incontinence (leaking), or urinary retention. You may bleed more than expected during surgery or develop an infection. You may also need to be treated again if the surgery you have does not relieve your symptoms.

What questions should I ask my provider to help me make decisions about treatment?

  • How will I feel if I continue to have these symptoms for the rest of my life?
  • Which medicines may work best to treat my symptoms?
  • What other steps can I take to decrease my symptoms?
  • Will I have to take medicine for the rest of my life?
  • What side effects might happen with each medicine I can try?
  • Am I a good candidate for surgery?
  • Which surgery may work best to treat my symptoms?
  • Where is the surgery done?
  • How long is recovery after surgery?
  • What are the possible side effects of surgery?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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