Prostate cancer vs. prostatitis: The differences

Although they may cause some similar symptoms, prostate cancer and prostatitis are health conditions with different causes, treatments, and prognoses. 

A black man holding his crotch with both hands

Key takeaways

  • Prostate cancer and prostatitis are not the same. They have different medical conditions with different causes, diagnoses, and treatments. However, both conditions can share some similar symptoms, such as cloudy urine, frequent urination, painful ejaculation, etc.
  • The best way to avoid complications associated with prostate cancer and prostatitis is to consult a doctor as soon as possible to get early treatment.
  • You can treat prostate cancer with hormone therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy. On the other hand, common treatments for prostatitis include anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relief medicines. 

As people with penises age, it becomes increasingly necessary to be aware of any changes within the prostate gland. That is because certain conditions may interrupt normal prostate functioning, thus having varied effects on health and overall quality of life. 

Some prostate conditions, like prostate cancer and prostatitis, often have similar symptoms, making it difficult for most people to identify them. Knowing the changes that could occur in the prostate gland and their possible treatments is essential, as it can help you stay healthy. 

How can you tell the difference between prostatitis and prostate cancer? Can chronic prostatitis lead to prostate cancer? We will discuss these and more in this article. 

Prostate cancer vs. prostatitis: Are they the same?

While prostate cancer and prostatitis may have similar symptoms that can affect the prostate gland, they are different. 

Prostate cancer is a more severe condition that can progress and become life-threatening if not treated. Prostatitis, on the other hand, is an inflammation of the prostate gland that can cause pain and discomfort. 

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer occurs when unusual cells start to grow in the prostate gland. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every person with a prostate is at risk for prostate cancer. They also stated that 13 out of every 100 people born with a prostate in America will experience prostate cancer at some point.

“Prostate cancer can be more aggressive in some men. This is due to certain risk factors associated with the disease, such as age, family history, and ethnicity”, says Dr. Sandeep Nayak, surgical oncologist at ClinicSpots. “Most men between 35 and 40 years of age are often encouraged to get regular screenings for prostate cancer, as early detection can be the difference between life and death in some cases,” he added. 

The four main stages of prostate cancer include:

Stage I: This is the first stage when the cancer has yet to grow beyond the prostate. This stage is also known as localized prostate cancer. 

A doctor may not always advise immediate treatment for prostate cancer in the localized stage because it takes time to grow and spread.

Stage II: Here, prostate cancer indicates that the cancer cells have not yet spread beyond the prostate gland. However, compared to stage I, stage II prostate cancer carries a higher risk of growth and progression.

Stage III: In this stage, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels are high, and the cancer is growing. All these indicate that the prostate is now in a locally advanced stage and is more likely to spread. 

Stage IV: This is an advanced stage of prostate cancer where cancer cells have spread either to distant parts of the body or the lymph nodes. 

What is prostatitis?

Prostatitis is another health condition that causes swelling and tenderness in the prostate or areas near the prostate. Although the swelling from prostatitis can increase your PSA level (prostate-specific antigen), it does not result in cancer.

According to research by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, prostatitis is a common urinary tract infection that mainly affects people with prostates who are below 50 years. The same research mentioned that every year, health professionals in the United States receive about two million visits for prostatitis. A person with prostatitis may experience difficulty urinating and pain in their pelvic region.

Causes of prostate cancer

There is currently no known cause of prostate cancer. But aside from age, some other risk factors for prostate cancer may include:

  • Family history

Genes passed down through families can have an impact on the risk of developing prostate cancer.

People who have immediate relatives living with prostate cancer are more likely to develop prostate cancer themselves. This risk is further increased if the relative with prostate cancer was diagnosed at a young age or if multiple family members are affected by the disease.

  • Ethnicity

When compared to men of other races, prostate cancer is more frequently diagnosed in African American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry, especially at a younger age. 

The underlying reasons for these racial and ethnic disparities in prostate cancer incidence are not fully understood.

  • Obesity

Although study findings have been inconsistent, obese people may be more prone to prostate cancer than individuals with a healthy weight. In obese individuals, prostate cancer tends to be more aggressive and more likely to recur after initial treatment.

Causes of Prostatitis

The causes often depend on the type of prostatitis you're experiencing. That said, here are four common causes:

  • Acute bacterial prostatitis 

Here, a sudden and severe bacterial infection develops in the prostate gland. Acute bacterial prostatitis typically comes with pronounced symptoms such as the inability to pee, severe pain in the testicles or anus, and painful ejaculation. 

  • Chronic bacterial prostatitis 

This condition occurs when there is a persistent bacterial infection in the prostate gland. Unlike acute bacterial prostatitis, chronic bacterial prostatitis comes with fewer symptoms 

  • Chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS) 

Male CPPS is a common type of prostatitis that affects 19 out of 20 people who have prostatitis. It causes persistent pain in the pelvic, perineal, and genital regions.

Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis

This type of prostatitis does not come with any symptoms. Doctors often discover asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis incidentally through tests conducted for other reasons, such as semen analysis for infertility. Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis does not usually require treatment.

Symptoms of prostate cancer vs. prostatitis

Certain signs that may be associated with prostate cancer and prostatitis include, but aren't limited to:

  • Trouble starting and ending the urinary stream 
  • Frequent urination, mostly during the night
  • Bone pain
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Sudden unhealthy weight loss
  • Cloudy urine
  • Pain in the groin or abdomen
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Muscle aches

Ask your doctor questions once you notice a frequent occurrence of one or more of these symptoms in your body. 

Is there a treatment for prostate cancer and prostatitis?

When asked if it is possible to treat prostate cancer and prostatitis, Dr. Sandeep of Clinic Spots said, “Prostatitis and prostate cancer can both be treated, depending on the severity of the condition."

Most cases of prostatitis can be treated using antibiotics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. However, there are more severe cases, such as chronic bacterial prostatitis, that may require surgery to remove part of the prostate gland.

“The chances of survival for prostate cancer depend on the stage at which it is diagnosed. If caught in its early stages, where it has not spread beyond the prostate gland, surgery or radiation therapy may provide a full cure with an excellent chance of long-term survival. In advanced stages, treatment options become more complex and involve various combinations of therapies.”, Dr. Sandeep added. 

Can chronic prostatitis lead to prostate cancer?

No research suggests a relationship between prostatitis and prostate cancer. However, there are speculations that chronic swelling in the prostate gland may indirectly increase the risk of developing prostate cancer. 

It is best to consult your doctor for a more proper evaluation of your symptoms. 

Can prostate cancer be mistaken for prostatitis?

Yes. Prostate cancer and prostatitis can have similar symptoms, such as urinary issues, pain in the pelvic region, and erectile dysfunction. The similarity in their symptoms may sometimes result in a misdiagnosis. 

Nonetheless, with a thorough assessment like blood tests, biopsies, and ultrasounds, it is easy to understand the difference between the two conditions and to detect the exact one causing a person's symptoms. 

Prostate Cancer vs. Prostatitis: Difference between the two

Below are the differences between prostate cancer and prostatitis:

Prostate Cancer


Prostate cancer occurs when unusual cells start growing in the prostate gland.

Prostatitis causes inflammation and tenderness in the prostate gland.

Some common risk factors for prostate cancer are family history, ethnicity, and obesity.

A bacterial infection or urinary tract infection causes prostatitis. 

Prostate cancer diagnosis involves a combination of prostate biopsy, blood tests, and digital rectal examination.

Prostatitis diagnosis involves urinalysis, transrectal ultrasound, and cystoscopy. 

Treatment options for prostate cancer may include hormone therapy, radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, and natural herbs.

Treatment options for prostatitis may include pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Bottom Line

Overall, prostate cancer and prostatitis both occur in the prostate gland, but they are different. The growth of abnormal cells in the prostate gland is the primary cause of prostate cancer, which frequently necessitates a strict diagnosis and effective treatment options. On the other hand, infections and bacteria are what cause prostatitis.  

To effectively manage both prostate conditions, it is best to opt for regular medical attention and screening with a qualified doctor. By doing this, you can take total charge of your prostate health 


  1. Harvard Health Publishing (n.d). Prostate health
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (n.d). Who is at risk? 
  3. Prostate Cancer UK (2022). Localized prostate cancer
  4. Prostate Cancer Foundation (n.d). Prostatitis, what is it?
  5. NIDDK (2021). Prostatitis: Inflammation of the prostate
  6. American Cancer Society (n.d). Prostate cancer risk factors
  7. Prostate Cancer UK (2022). Prostatitis
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (n.d). How Is prostate cancer diagnosed?