How to Treat Prostate Cancer

Three Methods:Choosing Your Initial Treatment ApproachConsidering Less Common Medical Treatment OptionsMaking Treatment-Related Decisions

If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you’re likely overwhelmed by all the different treatment options available. In order to choose the best treatment option, work with multiple doctors to fully understand the potential benefits and drawbacks of each option with attention to your specific diagnosis. While surgery and radiation therapy are the most common treatments used to treat prostate cancer, you may find that a blend of multiple treatment options work best for you.[1]

Method 1
Choosing Your Initial Treatment Approach

  1. 1
    Maintain active surveillance. One of the best treatment methods for dealing with prostate cancer is simply monitoring the cancer to make sure it does not spread. Many men endure more aggressive treatment than is necessary to maintain their health.[2] You and your doctor may try to avoid more immediate forms of treatment for low grades of prostate cancer.
    • Active surveillance will necessitate periodic blood tests, especially prostate specific antigen tests, and digital rectal examinations.
    • If your cancer is low in grade and volume, and you want to maintain potency and avoid urinary complications, actively surveil in the short term and reevaluate treatment options only if the cancer grows or causes other symptoms.
    • If you are older and have a limited life expectancy or are battling other serious medical conditions, it may be best to forego treatment and avoid the potential complications associated with other methods of cancer treatment.
  2. 2
    Get a prostatectomy. Consider surgery to remove all or part of your prostate. Undergoing radical prostatectomy, which involves the removal of the prostate and some surrounding tissue, is often recommended for those with cancer in an early stage that is confined to the prostate and may be fully removed.[3]
    • Radical retropubic prostatectomy requires an incision in the abdomen and the removal of the prostate, which lies behind the pubic bone.
    • Catheters are usually needed following radical prostatectomy to allow your urinary sphincters to acclimate to the new plumbing setup.
    • Variations on incision points and specific methods of surgery are important to consider with your doctor. In the past, different methods of entry to the body were more commonly used; today, robots are often used to assist with prostatectomies.
    • Work with a surgeon who has experience doing prostatectomies.
  3. 3
    Kill cancer cells with radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses concentrated energy to kill cancer cells. There are several types of radiation therapy. Most commonly, an external machine will direct radiation beams directly at cancer cells. Internal brachytherapy allows the surgical implantation of radioactive material near the cancer cells to destroy the cancer at close proximity.[4]
    • External beam radiation therapy will require you to lie still while a machine moves around your body blasting high-powered x-rays or protons at your cancer. You’ll have to undergo this form of treatment five days a week for several weeks.
    • Brachytherapy will require rice-sized “seeds” of radioactive material to be placed inside your prostate tissue via an ultrasound-guided needle. The seeds will deliver a constant, low dose of radiation for a while, and will eventually stop giving off radiation.
    • Computer software and 3-D modeling have helped radiation oncologists better plan and execute radiation therapies. Still, make sure you and your doctor have access to the latest technologies – some of which are not widely available.[5]
    • Be prepared for the side effects of radiation therapy, which may include painful, frequent, and urgent urination, rectal and stool variations, and erectile dysfunction.
  4. 4
    Undergo chemotherapy. This treatment method includes any use of chemicals prescribed as drugs to shrink or kill cancer. Drugs are administered intravenously, in pill form, or both, with the intent of stopping cancer cells from dividing and thus stopping the growth and spread of cancerous tumors.[6]
    • There are many different types of drugs used in chemotherapy. Research continually re-evaluates the effectiveness of various chemotherapy drugs, often in combination with one another.
    • Different regimens, sometimes only on a trial status, are designed to be more tolerable, or to be more effective against cancer at a specific stage.
    • If you decide to use chemotherapy, look to maximize potential benefits and minimize side effects, which can be severe.
    • Plan supplementary treatment approaches with your doctors to help cope with chemotherapy’s toll on your body.

Method 2
Considering Less Common Medical Treatment Options

  1. 1
    Familiarize yourself with hormone therapy options. Hormone therapy prevents cancer cells from getting the hormones, namely testosterone, that they need to grow. Cutting off or reducing the supply of these hormones can help kill or reduce the growth of cancer. There are several different types of hormone therapy.[7]
    • Consider an orchiectomy. The surgical removal of your testicles is an immediate way to reduce the amount of testosterone in your body.
    • With the guidance of a specialist, choose between medications that stop your body from producing testosterone (luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone agonists) and those that block testosterone from reaching the cancer cells (anti-androgens).
    • Consider hormone therapy as an especially viable option to fight advanced prostate cancer.
    • Use hormone therapy before radiation therapy to make radiation more successful.
  2. 2
    Do not default to hormone therapy alone. Though an increasingly popular treatment option, hormone therapy alone is not a proven treatment strategy. Consider this therapy a sort of “middle ground” between active surveillance and more direct therapy for localized prostate cancer[8]
    • If surgery or radiation are not viable options for you, hormone therapy still offers an immediate treatment option.
    • Know that the side effects of hormone therapies are widespread, and include erectile dysfunction, hot flashes, reduction in bone mass, reduced sex drive, and weight gain.
    • If your cancer has spread beyond the prostate by the time of diagnosis, hormone therapy is a good option to help shrink the prostate gland and the cancer within.
  3. 3
    Consider cryotherapy. Otherwise known as cryosurgery, this treatment option involves the insertion of probes into the prostate. Argon gas or liquid nitrogen are then used to freeze the prostate and kill any tumor cells therein.[9]
    • Do not elect cryotherapy as your first treatment option. The likelihood of erectile dysfunction and urinary complications are relatively high, and this treatment method has less certain long-term outcomes.
    • Consider cryotherapy as a secondary option, particularly following unsuccessful radiation therapy.
    • Those with early-stage cancer and well-confined tumors are more likely to benefit from this method of treatment.
  4. 4
    Use a focused ultrasound to kill cancer cells. This treatment option focuses high-intensity sound waves on cancer cells to burn them to death. It requires a probe to be inserted into the rectum, from which a powerful ultrasound targets the prostate cancer.[10]
    • Though slow to take on elsewhere, this treatment option has demonstrated success in treating European patients.
    • Consider this a secondary treatment option, as potential side effects include erectile dysfunction and urinary complications, and this method is much less practiced then radiation therapy and other options.
  5. 5
    Think about taking part in a clinical trial. You can choose to take part in a controlled research study on new treatment options. Clinical trials are carefully controlled, and provide a cost-free way to get state-of-the art cancer treatments. In fact, some of the newest cancer treatments are only available as part of clinical trials.
    • Further, clinical trials also help the medical community learn more about cancer.
    • If you would be willing to take part in clinical trials at any time – before, during, or after other treatments – start by speaking with your doctor and accessing other trustworthy sources of medical knowledge, including respected cancer research organizations.
    • The American Cancer Society offers an extremely helpful clinical trials matching service, which can be reached at 1-800-303-5691, as well as a clinical trial database.[11]
    • The U.S. National Institute of Health webpage provides further information on clinical research trials, as well as a helpful web-based search tool at[12]
    • The National Cancer Institute webpage can also help you search for and learn about specific clinical trials.[13]
  6. 6
    Consider complementary options. There are innumerable options that can be used to treat cancer outside of those that are considered standard treatments by the medical community. Complementary treatments used alongside regular medical care can be extremely helpful in treating symptoms of cancer and aggressive medical treatment strategies.[14]
    • Be wary of alternative treatments that are intended to be utilized instead of standard medical treatment.
    • While many nontraditional healing strategies – such as acupuncture – can be used to help you feel better, understand that most unproven cancer treatments address symptoms, and are unlikely to help you fight cancer.
    • Some proposed treatment options may even be dangerous.
    • Keep your medical doctors informed of any complementary treatment options you pursue.
    • Speak with an integrative medicinal practitioner for more information on combining standard medical care with complementary treatments that are known to be safe and potentially helpful.[15]

Method 3
Making Treatment-Related Decisions

  1. 1
    See multiple doctors. Be sure to get multiple insights from several different types of doctors, each with a different specific knowledge set and treatment experience.[16]
    • See a urologist that specializes in studying diseases, including cancer, when they are found in the urinary system and male reproductive system.
    • See a radiation oncologist, as they will have specific insight regarding the use of radiation for treatment.
    • See a medical oncologist who will be able to discuss chemotherapy and other medication-based treatment options.
  2. 2
    Get multiple opinions. Ensure that you have plenty of information and assistance in making your treatment decisions and developing a comprehensive treatment plan. Do not hesitate to see multiple doctors within similar areas of expertise, as additional perspective can both improve your ability to make cooperative decisions and make your more comfortable with the route you choose to take.[17]
    • Ask a doctor you trust, such as your general practitioner, who they recommend.
    • Also ask those whom you see about your cancer who else they recommend speaking with.
    • Inform yourself fully about the specific procedures and the research associated with different treatment options.
    • The Natural Cancer Institute as well as the Prostate Cancer Foundation provide detailed information about prostate cancer, including further information on treatment options, online. [18],[19]
  3. 3
    Consider the vital aspects of your specific situation. There are several characteristics specific to you that will greatly determine the viability of certain treatment options. Be sure to address these points with your doctors:[20]
    • The numbers regarding your diagnosis, including the stage and grade of the cancer.
    • Other serious health conditions you have.
    • Your age and expected life span with and without treatment.
    • Your personal feelings regarding the need to treat your cancer with aggressive methods.
    • The side effects associated with each treatment option.
    • The realistic likelihood of each treatment option ridding your body of cancer.
  4. 4
    Consider choosing not to get treatment. Sometimes, maintaining your quality of life may outweigh the potential benefits of treatment. Even after undergoing some treatment methods and finding that they are not working or that the side effects are impacting you negatively, you may choose not to undergo further treatment.[21]
    • If, for whatever reason, you are inclined not to receive treatment, you should still talk it over with your doctors.
    • Non-treatment based support is also available, to help you deal with pain and other symptoms, as well any psychological or emotional stress you may be enduring.
    • Recognize that many men with prostate cancer live full, healthy lives without ever having any symptoms.[22]
  5. 5
    Get non-medical help too. Your cancer care team needs to include more than just medical doctors! The American Cancer Society webpage has complied programs and services that will help you find rides to treatment, lodging, support groups, and more.
    • Hospital and clinical support services will help link you to professionals and support groups addressing:
      • Financial aid.
      • Nutritional advice.
      • Rehabilitation services and support.
      • Mental health services and spiritual guidance.
      • Nursing and social work services.
    • Call the National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 anytime, any day and speak with a cancer support specialist.[23]
  6. 6
    Note that many botanical and nutritional products are unlikely to help you fight cancer. “Natural” and otherwise well-marketed dietary supplements, herbal supplements, and vitamins are not necessarily safe.[24] Some supplements may even undermine the healing capacity of the drugs that doctors often prescribe to treat cancer.
    • Herbal supplements may have unexpected detrimental effects upon your health. Most have not undergone a regulatory approval protocol to prove that they are likely to help you fight cancer.
    • Even vitamins that are commonly considered to be healthy can be detrimental to your health if taken in large doses or alongside other cancer treatments.
    • For instance, vitamin C may affect the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
    • Keep your doctors fully informed of any supplemental or dietary practices you undertake.

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Categories: Men's Health