Understanding Prostate Cancer Treatment Options

Published: December 28, 2018

The prostate is a walnut sized part of the male reproductive system. It is responsible for producing fluid to make semen. (1)

Unfortunately, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for men in the United States. 1 in 6 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.

We recommend that men in their 40’s have a discussion with their doctor regarding their family history of prostate cancer. This will help determine when you should start screening. Plus, a baseline PSA test in your 40’s can help your doctor have a full picture of your prostate health going forward.  Routine screening typically starts at age 50 unless there is a family history of cancer or symptoms are being experienced (see symptom section below).

Risk Factors

As men age, the risk of developing prostate cancer increases, with the risk increasing after turning 50. Men of African descent have higher rates of prostate cancer than other ethnic groups, but the cause of this is unknown. Genetics is also thought to play a role. That means that if men in your family have had prostate/breast/colon/or pancreatic cancer, your risk for developing prostate cancer increases. (1)

Symptoms

In the early stages of prostate cancer, often times there are NO apparent symptoms. That’s what makes screening so important! (See below.) If ignored, prostate cancer can grow and spread, making it harder to treat.

Some symptoms associated with prostate cancer are (1)(3):

  • Frequent urination
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Blood in urine
  • Dull pain in the lower pelvic area, lower back, hips or upper thighs
  • Unexplained appetite or weight loss
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Pain in bones, including the spine and ribs

Screening & Diagnosis

Prostate cancer can be screened for. Your doctor can perform simple tests that can help to catch cancer early, even if no symptoms are present.

Both a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination (DRE), can help your doctor get better insight into your prostate health. A rapid rise in PSA or an abnormality in the prostate can both be early indicators that can help your doctor catch prostate cancer early. It’s important to note, that while helpful, these screenings are not error-proof. False-negatives can let early cancer growth slip through the cracks.

You can discuss your health and family history with your physician to determine if prostate cancer screening is a good option for you.

Treatment Options

If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the options for your individual case will vary based on biopsy results.  Treatment options will then be based on your age, the stage and grade of the cancer, your risk factors, and your personal choice on how to proceed.  Some cases of prostate cancer are so slow-growing that immediate treatment isn’t necessary. Other cases are more aggressive, prompting patients to consider their options.

Below are some common approaches. The specialists at Virginia Urology can help you understand what option is best-suited for you and your health and lifestyle goals.

Active Surveillance:

In some cases, there may be cause to keep an eye on prostate health, but not necessarily a need for immediate medical intervention. In these cases, your urologist will have you come in routinely to keep an eye on your numbers so that they can be ready to intervene if something changes.

Prostatectomy:

This umbrella terms includes a variety of surgical treatments for prostate cancer that involve removing the prostate gland and surrounding tissue. Our surgeons are skilled in a variety of techniques including robotic-assisted prostatectomy and open radical prostatectomy.

Radiation:

There are different types of radiation that your physician may recommend depending on the stage and location of your cancer or your medical history.  Your doctor may recommend Brachytherapy (radioactive seed implantation). This strategy involves the implantation of small (rice-sized) radioactive seeds directly into the prostate where they give off radiation therapy for several weeks or months.  Or your doctor may recommend External Beam Radiation Therapy which uses radiation from the outside in to treat the cancer. Usually this approach lasts for several weeks and requires several visits to the radiologist per week. (4)

Virginia Urology Is Ready To Help:

At Virginia Urology, we have a highly experienced team of physicians who have specialized training in treating urological cancers – including prostate cancer. Our urologists work with in-house pathologists, radiologists and radiation oncologists to provide you with a top-notch care plan that features state-of-the-art treatment options.

We are prepared to examine your case from every angle and help implement the treatment plan that works best for you.

If you’ve received a prostate cancer diagnosis or are concerned about your prostate health – call us to learn how we can help.

(1) http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/prostate-cancer

(2) https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html

(3)https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html

(4) https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/treating/radiation-therapy.html