Trailing behind lung cancer, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men. Nearly 30,000 men lose their lives to prostate cancer every year in the United States alone, and there are nearly 200,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed annually. Although these statistics might sound grim, those suffering from prostate cancer still have reason to be optimistic because doctors and researchers have developed an array of effective treatments. Below you can learn about some of the more common and uncommon prostate cancer treatment options available.
Three Types of Surgery
If the cancer hasn’t spread outside of the prostate gland, surgery is one of the most common options for prostate cancer treatment. The standard surgery is called radical prostatectomy and removes the entire prostate gland and some surrounding tissues. It can be done in a number of ways. For example, in a radical prostatectomy, a single large incision is made in the lower abdomen to remove the affected tissues.
Alternatively, there’s the robotic radical prostatectomy, which is a robotic surgery for prostate cancer. Best suited for men who have localized prostate cancer, this treatment involves equipping a surgeon with a da Vinci robot to help provide 3D tissue magnification and high resolution imaging. Using precise movements and incisions, the da Vinci robot helps facilitate a highly efficient surgery that reduces risk to the patient, reduces recovery time, lowers the risk of complications, and causes even causes less scarring.
Finally, there’s cryosurgery. With cryosurgery, doctors attempt to destroy tissue by freezing it. In the case of prostate cancer, ultrasound probes are guided to the prostate and very cold gases are used to create tiny ice balls within the prostate to destroy the cancer. This treatment for prostate cancer is typically used as an option after other alternatives have failed.
Like its name suggests, radiation therapy uses high energy particles and rays to kill cancer cells. There are nearly half a dozen different types of radiation therapy, ranging from external beam therapy to proton beam radiation therapy, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. This allows doctors to highly personalize your radiation treatment. Radiation may be effectively used as a first treatment, as part of a first treatment, in cases of remission, and even in advanced stages of the cancer.
The expectant management treatment is essentially vigilant observation. Prostate cancer often takes a considerable amount of time to grow. Consequently, doctors may monitor the growth of your cancer at regular intervals to decide if treatment is needed. This can help men who have a less advanced cancer diagnosis side-step the effects of a treatment that may not help them live longer. Nearly all types of treatment come with some possible side effects, including bladder problems, bowel problems, incontinence, impotence, fatigue, and others. The expectant management treatment carefully weighs these risks to determine if they’re worth undertaking.
Androgen suppression therapy, also known as hormone therapy, works to reduce androgens levels in your body. Decreasing androgen levels often causes prostate cancer to shrink or grow at a slower rate. This treatment is generally selected if the cancer has spread too far to be handled by other forms of treatment, if the cancer returns from another treatment, or to reduce the size of the cancer prior to treatment. For patients who try and fail with hormone therapy, some doctors recommend the use of Sipuleucel-T, a cancer vaccination that boosts your immune system to attack cancerous cells in the prostate.
Deciding on a Treatment
If the wide number of treatment options available feels hard to process, don’t feel overwhelmed. Your doctor can help you select a treatment based on your age, anticipated lifespan, health condition, the condition of your cancer, the likelihood for successful treatment, and potential side effects. With the wide range of treatments available, there’s a great chance you’ll be able to find one or more treatments that can help.
Have you or a loved one undergone treatment for prostate cancer? What options did you and your doctor use to treat it? What would you want to tell someone facing a similar diagnosis. We’d love it if you could share your stories and support in the comments below.