The 4 Most Common Prostate Problems

Prostate problems are fairly common in men of all ages, especially older men. Prostate problems can range from simple inflammation to cancer. As you age, your prostate grows, making problems more likely to develop. 

If you suspect you may have a problem with your prostate, speak to your healthcare provider. Starting with a blood test and digital exam, your practitioner can diagnose any prostate-related issues you may be having. 


Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Doctor discussing prostate ultrasound scan with a patient
Getty Images/VOISIN

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is the technical term for an enlarged prostate. BPH can cause many of the same symptoms as prostate cancer. BPH is a noncancerous increase in the size and number of cells that make up the prostate. BPH is more common in older men, as the prostate grows with age.


Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most dangerous prostate problem and can cause many of the same symptoms as any other prostate problem at first.Thanks to early screening measures, prostate cancer is often diagnosed before any symptoms are noticed.

Prostate cancer develops in the prostate—a small gland that makes seminal fluid and is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Prostate cancer can grow over time and, in the beginning, usually stays within the prostate gland, where it is less likely to cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Prostate cancer that is caught early has a better chance of successful treatment.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer that is more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Decreased force in your stream of urine
  • Blood in your semen
  • Discomfort in your pelvic area
  • Bone pain
  • Erectile dysfunction

Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

Factors that can increase your risk of prostate cancer include:

  • Older Age: Your risk of prostate cancer increases as you age.
  • Race: Black men have a greater risk of prostate cancer than do men of other races. In black men, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced.
  • Family History of Prostate or Breast Cancer: If men in your family have had prostate cancer, your risk may be increased. Also, if you have a family history of genes that increase the risk of breast cancer, BRCA1 or BRCA2, or a very strong family history of breast cancer, your risk of prostate cancer may be higher.
  • Obesity: Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer may be more likely to have advanced disease that's more difficult to treat.

Complications From Prostate Cancer

Complications of prostate cancer and its treatments include:

  • Cancer That Spreads: Prostate cancer can spread or metastasize to nearby organs, or through your bloodstream or lymphatic system to your bones or other organs. If prostate cancer travels to other areas of the body, it can be controlled but is unlikely to be cured.
  • Incontinence: Both prostate cancer and its treatment can cause urinary incontinence. Treatment options include medications, catheters, and surgery.
  • Erectile Dysfunction: Erectile dysfunction can be a result of prostate cancer or its treatment, including surgery, radiation, or hormone treatments. Medications, vacuum devices that assist in achieving an erection, and surgery available to treat erectile dysfunction.

Prostate Cancer Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Man

Acute Prostatitis

Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) can develop quickly and cause severe symptoms including problems urinating; groin, pelvic, and genital pain; and flu-like symptoms.

If your prostatitis is caused by a bacterial infection, your healthcare provider will likely prescribe antibiotics. Other times, prostatitis is left alone to heal on its own.


Chronic Prostatitis

Prostatitis can also be a problem that lasts for many months and causes intermittent or low-grade symptoms. This type of prostatitis, known as chronic prostatitis, can be more challenging to treat. Your odds of developing prostatitis, like other prostate conditions, increase as you age.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Chughtai B, Forde JC, Thomas DD, et al. Benign prostatic hyperplasia. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2016;2:16031. doi:10.1038/nrdp.2016.31

  2. Litwin MS, Tan HJ. The diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer: A review. JAMA. 2017;317(24):2532-2542. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.7248

  3. American Cancer Society. Prostate cancer risk factors.

By Matthew Schmitz, MD
Matthew Schmitz, MD, is a professional radiologist who has worked extensively with prostate cancer patients and their families.