Men diagnosed with prostate cancer now have many treatment options available to them, including radiation, surgery, and drugs that stop the growth of the prostate cancer.
With so many choices, all of which have their own benefits and risks, choosing the best prostate cancer treatment can be difficult. The most appropriate therapy will depend upon the size and aggressiveness of the cancer, as well as whether it has spread to other parts of the body. In some cases, multiple treatments are used.
Watch and Wait: Active Surveillance of Prostate Cancer
Improved screening and detection of prostate cancer means that many cancers are found long before they are likely to pose a serious threat.
When theprostate tumor is very small or slow-growing (early stage), many men opt to “watch and wait,” an approach known as active surveillance.
This doesn’t mean do nothing. Your prostate cancer will be monitored regularly for changes in its size or growthusing:
- blood tests
- imaging (such as MRI)
- follow-up biopsies.
Radiation Treatment for Prostate Cancer
Radiation can be used to kill prostate cancer cells. Improved methods have allowed doctors to use higher doses of radiation, but with fewer side effects. The two main types are:
- External beam radiation therapy (EBRT).X-rays are aimed at the prostate cancer from outside the body.
- Radioactive material implants(Brachytherapy). Thisinvolves placing radioactive material (or “seeds”) inside the prostate gland.
During prostate surgery, the prostate gland is removed (radical prostatectomy), along with any nearby lymph nodes (part of the immune system) that have become cancerous.
While any surgery has a risk of complications, minimally invasive techniques, such as robotic prostatectomy using the da Vinci® Surgical System, combines the latest robotic and surgical techniques. Prostatectomy performed using the robot has many benefits, such as:
- less pain and blood loss
- fewer complications
- shorter stay in the hospital
- faster return to your normal activities.
Success of this procedure depends on both the skill and experience of the surgeon, as well as the technique used.
Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer
Hormone therapy blocks or reducesthemale hormones, such as testosterone, that fuel the growth of prostate cancer. Side effects include decreased sex drive and loss of muscle mass. This treatment can involve:
- Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), which blocks the production of testosterone using either medicines or removal of the testicles (the place where testosterone is made).
- Anti-androgens, medicines that keep the prostate cancer cells from using testosterone.
Treatment Options for Advanced Prostate Cancer
If the prostate cancer moves beyond the prostate gland (metastasis)—such as into the lymph nodes or other organs—doctors may use multiple types of therapies in order to treat this aggressive form of cancer.
In addition to hormone therapy, another treatment option is chemotherapy, which uses special drugs to slow or stop the growth of prostate cancer cells. These drugs are usually given in cycles, such as every 21 or 28 days.
The main side effects of chemotherapy are:
- nausea and vomiting
- temporary hair loss
- drop in white blood cells which increases the risk of infection.