The news that King Charles is undergoing treatment for an enlarged prostate has sparked an increase in searches for the condition online. NHS England reports that their advice webpage on prostate enlargement has seen a 1061% increase in traffic since the news of the Monarch’s condition was announced.

The prostate is a small gland that is located between the penis and the bladder. A benign prostate enlargement (BPE) is a non-cancerous condition in which the prostate gland becomes enlarged. This can cause difficulty passing urine, or make the need to urinate more frequent. It can also lead to difficulty emptying the bladder.

The NHS advice page explains that men who have symptoms of an enlarged prostate often fear that they have prostate cancer, but in fact there is no link between having the condition and an increased risk of prostate cancer. In some cases, the symptoms may be mild and not require any treatment. 

The causes of BPE are unknown but it’s more common in older men over the age of 50, and it may be due to changes in hormone levels. It’s not usually a serious condition, although it’s advisable to have symptoms checked out by a doctor to rule out other conditions.  Moderate symptoms may be treated with lifestyle changes and medication. 

Ian Eardley, National Clinical Director for NHS England and a consultant urological surgeon in Leeds, said: “Benign prostate enlargement is common in men over the age of 50 and you would expect around 70-80% over the age of 75 to have an enlarged prostate.”

He added: “Many men worry that having an enlarged prostate means they have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer but this isn’t the case. Help is available and there are a number of tests that can be done to rule out cancer.”

“The symptoms of an enlarged prostate can be considerably improved by visiting your GP, taking medication and making lifestyle changes and, for most, there is no need for an operation”.

Mild symptoms of BPE may be relieved with some diet and lifestyle changes, including cutting down on caffeine, fizzy drinks, limiting drinks in the evening and taking regular exercise. 

Occasionally, the symptoms of an enlarged prostate may be an indication of prostate cancer. According to the charity Prostate Cancer UK, about one in eight men in the UK will get prostate cancer. It’s more common in men over the age of 50, and there is a hereditary link, so men with a close male relative who has the condition have an increased risk. 

The cancer is often slow growing and early symptoms can be missed, but the earlier it is treated, the greater the survival rates. Campaigners for men’s health are calling for a national screening programme for prostate cancer, as there is for women’s breast cancer. They have welcomed King Charles’ openness in sharing his condition. 

Chiara de Biase, the director of support and influencing at the charity Prostate Cancer UK, told The Guardian: “We’re thankful to the king for sharing that he is to be treated in hospital next week for an enlarged prostate.”

She added: “Raising awareness of prostate health is very important and already we are seeing that compared to the same 24-hour period last week, the number of people completing Prostate Cancer UK’s online risk checker is up by over 97%.”

Not all cases of prostate cancer require urgent treatment. According to the NHS advice page, slow-growing cases may be actively monitored with regular checkups. In some cases, the cancer can be successfully treated and cured through surgery or radiotherapy.

However, treatment can cause some serious side effects, including erectile dysfunction (ED). This is the inability to get an erection or keep an erection long enough for a satisfactory sexual experience. Many men find that this causes them mental and emotional distress, and it can affect their relationships or increase feelings of social isolation.

Some men may feel reluctant or embarrassed to seek treatment for ED, and it is understandable that they may not feel comfortable sharing details of their sex life with a complete stranger. However, ED often responds well to treatment so there is no need to suffer in silence.
The right treatment for ED after prostate cancer treatment will vary with each case because it depends on age, overall health, previous sexual function, and other factors. In some cases, an oral treatment such as sildenafil, which you can buy online, may be helpful.