Prostate Cancer Treatment
- Active Surveillance and Watchful Waiting
In most cases, prostate cancer grows very slowly, so most older men who develop prostate cancer may not need treatment. Instead, doctors may recommend approaches that observe the cancer closely, without taking immediate action.
No matter what treatment is chosen for prostate cancer, it’s important to note that early detection is crucial. Cancer is monitored very closely once it has been diagnosed with “active surveillance,” which means the patient is put under constant monitoring. 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.
Another form of follow-up is called “watchful waiting”. In this process, there would be fewer tests and more reliance on the patient’s symptoms in determining whether alternative treatment is needed.
- Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is typically the first treatment offered to patients with prostate cancer that has not spread. During the treatment, beams of radiation are focused on the prostate gland to basically burn the cells.
As cancer advances, radiation therapy can help keep the cancer under control for as long as possible and relieve symptoms at the same time. It is often combined with hormone therapy as part of the initial treatment for cancers that have spread outside the prostate gland and into nearby tissues.
- Prostate Cancer Surgery
In contrast to radiation treatments, surgery involves removing the prostate gland as a whole.
Cancer that has not spread outside the prostate gland is normally treated this way. When a “radical prostatectomy” is recommended, the surgeon will remove the entire prostate gland and some surrounding tissue to ensure the cancer does not spread.
- Hormonal Therapy
When the cancer has spread too far for surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy to be effective, hormonal therapy will likely be recommended to shrink it.
As previously stated, it can be used with other therapies, like radiation, as an initial treatment if the patient is at greater risk of the cancer returning after treatment.
Living tissue cannot withstand extreme cold, regardless of how healthy it is. Cryotherapy destroys prostate cancer tissue by freezing it at extremely low temperatures.
The prostate gland is injected with a freezing liquid, such as liquid nitrogen or argon gas. As the prostate freezes, any cancerous tissue within is destroyed. The surgeon can limit the amount of damage to normal prostate tissue by using ultrasound to identify the cancer cells.
White blood cells clean up the dead tissue and cancer cells after they have been destroyed.
Lastly, if prostate cancer has spread outside the prostate gland and hormone therapy has failed, chemotherapy may be used.
Medication is injected into a vein or taken orally. Drugs enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body, making this treatment potentially useful for cancers that have spread.