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In general, a surgery is defined as a manipulation of parts of the body to treat a disease or injury. With this definition, even procedures that do not use external incisions can be considered surgery, so long as some other part of the body is altered. This is the case with transurethral resection of the prostate, known simply as TURP surgery. TURP involves entering the body through the urethra to remove enlarged or cancerous prostate tissue. While TURP doesn’t involve cutting open the skin and is therefore less invasive than some other treatments, it is still considered a type of surgery because prostate tissue is removed.
The prostate is a small gland that is only present in males. It usually sits below the bladder, next to the urethra. This gland can become enlarged due to normal age-related changes in a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). In a man with BPH, the prostate may grow to the point that it starts to pinch or put pressure on the urethra and/or bladder. When this happens, symptoms such as trouble urinating, needing to urinate often or with urgency, or frequent urinary infections can result.
BPH can sometimes be treated with medications. When symptoms persist or become severe, however, surgery may be recommended to remove part or all of the prostate. TURP is one of the more common BPH surgeries. It is generally considered less invasive and less risky than open surgery because it uses an existing opening in the body, rather than making a new incision that can lead to greater risks of infection, blood loss and longer healing times.
TURP surgery generally involves threading a special tool through the tip of the penis into the urethra and up to the area where the prostate is located. The tool can then be activated by the surgeon to cut or laser away pieces of prostate tissue that are pressing on the urethra. In general, the tool also has a cauterizing component that’s used to seal off the cut tissue, so no stitches are required.
As well as treating BPH, TURP surgery may also be used to help treat prostate cancer. Prostate enlargement due to cancer can cause similar symptoms as BPH, and also carries the risk of cancer spreading to other parts of the body. Traditional prostate cancer surgery typically involves cutting through the skin under the scrotum or on the abdomen to access and remove the entire prostate. This type of major surgery cannot always be performed safely, such as in older men or those who are very ill, so the less invasive TURP surgery may be recommended.