There are a variety of methods used to treat prostate cancer. The choice depends on many factors, including whether or not the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, your age and general health, and how you feel about the treatment options and their side effects.
Treatment approaches include:
- Watchful Waiting
Watchful waiting is a passive technique used when it is suspected that the cancer is growing slowly and not causing symptoms. You and your provider will carefully monitor your condition, with regular physical exams and tests. Treatment is aimed at preventing or alleviating symptoms, but not eradicating the cancer.
The surgical procedure used most often to treat early stages of prostate cancer is known as radical prostatectomy. The goal of this procedure is to remove the entire prostate gland and seminal vesicles while preserving nearby structures, such as the nerves that control urination and sexual function. There are a number of techniques that can be used to perform this procedure, including traditional surgery, robot-assisted methods, and laparoscopic procedures. You and your provider will discuss what options are best-suited for your condition.
- External Radiation Therapy
Radiation can be used to direct high-energy rays to destroy prostate cancer cells and shrink tumors. External radiation is delivered to the prostate using a device that resembles a normal X-ray machine. The treatment itself is generally painless, and is usually given during short appointments over a period of 7 to 8 weeks.
Brachytherapy involves placement of radioactive material inside the patient, directly in or near the tumor. This technique enables delivery of a high dose of radiation to the tumor while reducing the dose of radiation to surrounding normal tissues.
- Hormonal Manipulation
Medications that lower or eliminate the levels of testosterone can be used to treat prostate cancer. These medications can shrink prostate tumors or slow growth for long periods of time, but cannot permanently cure prostate cancer. Another way to eliminate the production of testosterone is to perform surgery to remove the testes using a procedure called orchiectomy. Hormone manipulation is mainly used to relieve symptoms in men who have advanced stages of prostate cancer.
Chemotherapy can be used to treat prostate cancers that are resistant to hormonal treatments. A single drug or a combination of drugs may be used, depending on your condition. These drugs are designed to destroy cancer cells. However, chemotherapy can also damage healthy cells, causing a variety of side effects. The severity of the side effects depends on the drugs given and how often and how long you take them.
Your provider will review your treatment options with you, and refer you to specialists when necessary. It’s important that you share your concerns with your provider when considering the treatment options available to you.