A prostate nodule is a firm, knuckle-like area on the prostate gland. A nodule can develop due to a variety of reasons, including prostatitis and prostate cancer.
The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system and is about the size and shape of a walnut. It is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It helps produce semen, which carries the sperm from the testicles through the penis during ejaculation.
This article will look at the causes, symptoms, and diagnosis of prostate nodules.
What is a prostate nodule?
A prostate nodule is a firm area that may appear on the prostate gland. It is raised and hard and feels like the knuckle on a finger.
During a biopsy, a doctor removes a piece of tissue and sends it to a lab for testing.
What are the alternatives to a biopsy for prostate cancer? Find out here.
A nodule or a tumor?
A nodule or tumor on the prostate gland is essentially the same thing. They are both abnormal growths.
However, people often use the word nodule for a benign growth. They more often think of a tumor as cancer. However, not all tumors are cancerous.
To learn more about tumors, whether benign or malignant, see our dedicated article here.
A prostate nodule can develop for various reasons, including the following.
Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate gland start to grow uncontrollably. Some prostate nodules can be cancerous, but others are not.
There are different types of prostate cancer, depending on which cells they appear in.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men in the United States, after skin cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 9 men will receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer at some time during their life. The society also note that the average age at diagnosis is 66 years, and 60% of cases occur after the age of 65 years.
Can women also get prostate cancer? Find out more.
Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland. It often results from a bacterial infection.
Around half of all men experience prostatitis at some point in their lives. It does not increase the risk of other prostate diseases.
There are four types of prostatitis:
Chronic prostatitis, or chronic pelvic pain syndrome: This is the most common type of prostatitis, and it can come and go without warning. Symptoms include pain and discomfort in the groin and bladder area. A doctor may treat it with anti-inflammatory drugs or alpha-blockers.
Chronic bacterial prostatitis: This is a bacterial infection. The only symptom may be a bladder infection. Doctors can treat it with antibiotics, but it may come back.
Acute bacterial prostatitis: This starts suddenly and results from a bacterial infection. It is the least common type of prostatitis but the easiest to diagnose and treat with antibiotics. Symptoms include chills, fever, and urine in the blood.
Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis: This does not have any symptoms and often does not need treatment. A doctor will usually discover it while testing for another condition.
Prostate stones develop in or around the prostate gland.
They can result from blockages, due, for example, to chronic inflammation or enlargement of the prostate, which doctors call benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
Sometimes, the stones form when a blockage causes urine to back up in the urethra. About 80% of prostate stones are made of calcium phosphate. They can resemble nodules.
Prostate calculi, or prostatic stones, can stem from chronic prostatitis. They often cause similar symptoms.
Treatment is not always necessary for prostate stones. Sometimes, however, they can lead to inflammation, pain, or difficulty urinating. In these cases, a doctor may remove them using electrical or laser treatment.
Other causes of a prostate nodule include:
- an infarct, an area of dead tissue that happens when there is a loss of blood supply
- abnormalities in the rectum, such as a hemorrhoid
A doctor will ask the person about their symptoms and medical history. They may take a urine sample for testing.
Digital rectal exam
The standard way to examine the prostate is a digital rectal exam. A doctor will insert a lubricated and gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate. The test takes around 10–15 seconds.
The exam will allow the doctor to feel for any changes in the prostate.
They will check for:
- size, firmness, and texture
- any hard areas, lumps, or nodules
- any pain that may result from pressing on the prostate
These can show if a prostate nodule is present.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
This is a blood test. It checks for high levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a protein that the prostate produces.
High levels of PSA in the blood can indicate a variety of changes and conditions.
- prostate cancer
- an enlarged prostate
Apart from cancer, what causes PSA levels to rise? Find out here.
If a doctor believes that someone has prostate cancer, they will recommend a prostate biopsy. They will take samples from several areas of the prostate gland for testing.
If the test shows that cancer is present, the doctor will discuss treatment options with the individual.
Having a prostate nodule does not mean that a person has cancer, although cancer is one possible reason for a prostate lump.
The treatment and outlook for a prostate nodule will depend on the cause and the health of the individual. Often, people do not require any treatment.
If cancer is present, treatment may involve surgery, chemotherapy, and a range of other options.
The outlook for prostate cancer is excellent. A person who receives a diagnosis when cancer is still in or near the prostate gland will have an almost 100% chance of living at least another 5 years.
However, this varies depending on the type of cancer and the person’s age and overall health.
The prostate gland tends to grow larger as a person ages. Doctors call this benign prostatic hyperplasia (BHP).
An enlarged prostate may squeeze the urethra and make it difficult to urinate. This requires medical attention.
The risk of having prostate problems also increases with age.
The most common prostate problems are inflammation, an enlarged prostate, and prostate cancer.
A person should see the doctor if they have:
- changes in urination patterns, such as a more frequent or urgent need to urinate
- blood in the urine or semen
- difficulty getting an erection
- pain in the pelvic area
These may be signs of a problem that needs medical treatment.
Anyone who has concerns about prostate cancer or other prostate problems should see their doctor. The doctor can also advise on screening for prostate cancer.
Find out more about the stages, treatment, and outlook for prostate cancer.
At what age should a man start having regular screening for prostate cancer?
The guidelines for prostate cancer screening have some variability as to the age at which screening should take place. In general, men of average risk should start screening at the age of 50.
Those who doctors consider being at higher risk should undergo screening earlier. For instance, black men and those with a family history of prostate cancer should start screening between the ages of 40 and 45.
Men who carry the BRCA mutations (BRCA1 and BRCA2) may warrant screening as early as age 40.Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.