At least 80 percent of men over the age of 50 will develop benign prostatic hypertrophy, a noncancerous growth of the prostate gland that can interfere with urination and cause damage to the urinary system.

Of these men, 20 percent will require one of two surgical procedures to remove the growth and restore regular urinary function, according to a urologist at New York University Medical Center."Benign prostatic hypertrophy is an age- and hormone-related disorder in which a benign growth develops in the prostate, a walnut-sized gland located in men just below the urinary bladder," said Dr. Pablo Morales.

"Benign prostate growth can compress the prostate against its outer shell," Morales noted in an article for the center's Health Letter. "The growth can also obstruct the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. In severe cases, bladder muscles become enlarged. Some portions of the bladder wall may weaken and sacs, called diverticula, form. Infection may develop when urine stagnates in the bladder. If obstruction persists, kidney function can become impaired."

There is no evidence benign prostatic hypertrophy increases the risk of prostate cancer. The two are independent processes.

Symptoms of benign prostate growth include difficulty in starting urination, a weak urinary stream, a sensation of incomplete bladder emptying, an increase in the frequency of urination (especially at night), and incontinence, he said. Untreated, the process progresses to urinary retention, an inability to urinate.

Two kinds of surgery are available to remove the enlargement. Transurethral prostatectomy, the more common, involves the insertion of a small instrument. The surgeon scrapes out part of the benign growth from the inside of the prostate. After the procedure, a urinary catheter is kept in place for two to three days.