Despite the fact that some media reports have recently been published claiming that prostate cancer has been over-treated, there are many men each year who still need aggressive therapy. Different treatment options each have their own pros and cons.
Men who are considering undergoing a radical prostatectomy will appreciate getting answers to the following questions in order to make an informed decision.
Ask Your Doctor
1. How many of these operations have you performed in the last year?
Research has shown that doctors performing more than 20 prostatectomies per year have a lower complication rate on average than doctors doing less than that number. Some urologists like Dr. Robert Gaertner and Dr. Christopher Knoedler specialize in prostate cancer surgery. Studies have shown that the best results come from very experienced surgeons.
2. What is the likelihood surgery will cure the cancer?
Statistically the best candidates for surgery are patients where the cancer is completely inside the prostate; but even then it is sometimes possible that the cancer will recur. When the cancer is growing outside the gland some men will need radiation after surgery. Ask your doctor to provide you with the odds that the surgery will be enough or whether additional therapy will be needed. The answers to these questions might influence your decision to choose radiation instead.
3. What are the odds of developing side effects?
All types of treatments can have side effects, and they can happen regardless of the expertise of the surgeon. The odds of side effects occurring vary, in part due to the cancer and a patient’s health. It is not enough to know what complications can occur; to make an informed decision, men also should find out the odds of them occurring. Ask your doctor things like: how often do men of my age and health develop impotence, incontinence or a urethral stricture? Ask the doctor how those results were measured. The most reliable information comes from written surveys completed by patients treated by their doctor.
4. Ask what happens if you develop impotence or incontinence; ask how is it treated and what are the odds of success?
Good treatments are available for incontinence or impotence, but some men still find these problems unacceptable. Knowing what can be done may influence your decision for or against surgery. Remember, all treatments can cause complications, but the odds of them occurring vary.