The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis that plays a vital role in male reproduction. Unfortunately, about 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.
There are a lot of options for effective treatments; however, most are recommended on an individual case basis. Depending on their situation, certain patients are better served by one treatment over other alternatives.
The most standard treatments for local prostate cancer include:
1. Active Surveillance and Watchful Waiting
Because prostate cancer often grows very slowly, men who are diagnosed at an older age might not ever need treatment for their prostate cancer. Instead, doctors may recommend approaches that observe the cancer closely, without taking immediate action.
It’s important to note, that early detection is very important for management of prostate cancer, regardless of the treatment chosen.
Once the cancer is diagnosed, the doctor may recommend “active surveillance,” meaning the cancer is monitored very closely. This approach includes frequent (bi-annual) doctor visits with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests and digital rectal exams (DRE).
If during the course of the appointments the patient’s test results change, the doctor would then talk to them about treatment options.
Similarly, “Watchful Waiting” is a less intensive type of follow-up. This process would include fewer tests and more reliance on the patient’s symptoms to decide if alternative treatment is needed.
2. Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is typically the first treatment for cancer that has not spread from the prostate gland and is considered low grade. During the treatment, beams of radiation are focused on the prostate gland from a machine outside of the body to essentially burn the cells.
For advancing cancers, radiation therapy can help keep the cancer under control for as long as possible and prevent or relieve symptoms in the meantime.
It is also commonly paired with hormone therapy as part of the first treatment for cancers that have spread outside the prostate gland and into nearby tissues.
Alternatively to radiation treatments, which burn specific areas in the prostate, surgery is treatment by removal of the prostate gland as a whole.
This is a common treatment choice if the cancer has not spread outside the prostate gland. During the recommended surgery, often “radical prostatectomy,” the surgeon removes the entire prostate gland and some surrounding tissue to ensure the cancer does not spread.
4. Hormonal Therapy
If the cancer has spread too far to be cured by surgery or radiation, or in order to make the following treatment more effective, hormonal therapy will likely be recommended to shrink the cancer.
As said above, it can be used along with other therapies, like radiation, as an initial treatment if the patient is at higher risk of the cancer coming back after treatment.
Any living tissue, regardless of if it is healthy or not, cannot tolerate extreme cold. So, cryotherapy uses extremely cold temperatures to freeze and destroy cancer tissue in the prostate.
A freezing liquid, such as liquid nitrogen or argon gas, is infused through the probe into the prostate gland. The intense cold freezes the prostate and destroys any cancerous tissue it contains. Using an ultrasound to identify the cancer tissue, the surgeon can limit damage to normal prostate tissue.
After the cancer cells are destroyed, white blood cells clean up the dead cells and tissue.
Lastly, chemotherapy is also sometimes used if prostate cancer has spread outside the prostate gland and hormone therapy isn’t working.
This treatment uses medication injected into a vein or given by mouth. These drugs enter the bloodstream and go throughout the body, making this treatment potentially useful for cancers that have spread.
Again, treatment is most successful in the earlier stages of the disease, so if you are experiencing any symptoms of prostate cancer, it is best to consult your physician as soon as possible. Please contact our office if you have any questions or concerns.