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Have you ever had to stop doing something you enjoy for a phone call or knock at the door? Jeff, a Summit Health patient, knows the feeling well. But his biggest interruptions were frequent trips to the bathroom.

“I was getting up four times in the middle of the night,” he recalls. “I was missing key parts of the movie. And airplane trips were a nightmare unless I had the aisle seat.”

Jeff was suffering from an enlarged prostate, known medically as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It’s the most common prostate problem for men older than 50, affecting about 50% of those ages 51 to 60 and up to 90% of men older than 80 according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

BPH is caused by multiple factors including hormone levels and genetic predisposition. But since this non-cancerous condition occurs mainly in older men, it’s believed that hormone level changes in the prostate over time play a role.

What is an enlarged prostate?

The prostate is a gland in men that sits below the bladder and surrounds part of the urethra. Urine and sperm flow out of the body through the urethra. But when your prostate grows or enlarges, it can pinch the urethra and cause annoying or worrisome symptoms, including:

  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate, especially at night
  • Trouble starting urination or straining to urinate
  • Weak or interrupted urine stream
  • Dribbling after urination
  • Being unable to empty your bladder completely
  • Inability to hold your urine or fear of leaking
  • Pain with urination or in the bladder area

Without treatment, BPH can make symptoms worse and lead to other problems, such as urinary tract infections and bladder or kidney damage.

Jeff contacted his provider at the time to find out what was causing his symptoms. Diagnosing BPH typically involves a physical exam and other tests. “I didn’t realize I had a prostate issue — I thought I had a small bladder,” he says.

There are multiple treatment options for BPH. They include:

  • Monitoring or a wait-and-see approach
  • Medications
  • Minimally invasive procedures
  • Surgery

Jeff started medications after receiving his diagnosis, but they were unsuccessful. He then researched other options, leading him to Summit Health urologist Mubashir Shabil Billah, MD.

“I did my due diligence and saw that Dr. Billah’s practice was working with cutting-edge solutions for BPH,” Jeff recalls.

Treatments for enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)

Jeff was initially treated with medications, but he did not respond adequately. Many men respond well to medication alone, but Jeff was not one of them. Dr. Billah then proposed a newer less-invasive procedure known as Aquablation® therapy. This technique uses advanced imaging and robotic technology to remove prostate tissue.

The Aquablation system uses ultrasound imaging — sound waves that create a 3D picture — to map the prostate and target areas for removal. The imaging is then combined with a camera called a cystoscope to provide the surgeon with a real-time view while a robotically controlled, heat-free water jet removes the excess prostate tissue.

Dr. Billah says the technology offers precision and consistency — even with very large prostates, which previously required surgery. And Jeff says he also liked knowing there was a shorter recovery time and low rates of complications, such as incontinence and erectile dysfunction. “Dr. Billah was easy to talk to, explained all options available, and calmed any fears I had.”

Dr. Billah performed Jeff’s procedure in the hospital in late 2022, and Jeff went home the same day. In most cases, patients stay overnight in the hospital and wear a catheter for one to two days to drain the bladder.

“Within a week of the procedure, I felt like I was 22 years old,” Jeff recalls. He says he experienced short-term discomfort but felt “perfectly normal” within three weeks.

The effect of an enlarged prostate on quality of life

“BPH was affecting my quality of life for four to five years,” Jeff continues. “Now I can go out to dinner with my wife and not have to excuse myself two times. When we take trips with my daughter to her soccer matches, I’m not worried about where the next rest stop is.”

Jeff shares his story with male friends to raise awareness of BPH and treatment options. “Friends are always writing this stuff down,” says Jeff who is now 60 years old. “Men are sometimes afraid to discuss health issues… but BPH really sneaks up on you.”

Dr. Billah agrees that men shouldn’t wait to discuss concerning symptoms. “You don’t have to live with symptoms and think they’re a normal part of aging,” he says. “Many treatment options are available — you can and should be able to live your life to the fullest.”

A note about prostate cancer screening

Having an enlarged prostate doesn’t increase your risk for prostate cancer. However, BPH and prostate cancer symptoms can be similar. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that men ages 55 to 69 discuss the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening with their primary care physician or urologist.

If you have any symptoms of BPH do not suffer in silence. Make an appointment with your primary care physician or urologist for a thorough diagnosis and treatment plan that can improve your quality of life.