In the United States, one out of five men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. Fortunately, unlike other cancers, prostate cancer is highly treatable when caught in its early stages. Men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer should know that there are a number of treatment options, which makes it important to understand how the treatments vary so the best treatment choice can be made.
This form of treatment is an option for a man at any age if the cancer is in its earliest stage. Many times radiation therapy is chosen when surgery to remove the cancer is not an option. Men that have health issues that make surgery too risky may also opt for radiation therapy. In addition, doctors may suggest radiation therapy as a supplement to surgery in cases when a patient may have had another high-risk cancer that makes it unlikely that radiation therapy alone will be an effective treatment.
Depending on the type of radiation therapy a patient undergoes, the procedure may require daily treatments five days a week for as long as nine weeks. Some treatments require hospitalization, while other types of radiation therapy can be done on an outpatient basis. The three types of radiation therapy available include:
- External beam radiation
- LDR brachytherapy
- HDR brachytherapy
Younger men, under the age of 70, may choose surgery as the primary form of treatment. Men who choose this form of prostate cancer treatment may do so because they want the assurance that the cancer has been completely removed from their body. As long as a patient is in good health and able to undergo surgery, surgery can be a viable option; however, patients should understand that there are risks of serious side effects and radiation therapy may need to be administered if the cancer returns.
Following prostate surgery, men may have problems with incontinence and erectile dysfunction. If the cancer was located near the nerves that control these functions, this increases the risk of developing these side effects. A patient’s age, the medications they are on, and their health before and after the surgery can greatly affect the severity of incontinence or erectile dysfunction.
In some cases, prostate treatment may consist of actively watching the cancer without taking any corrective measures right away. Prostate cancer is considered a slow growing cancer. In many instances, the cancer may not grow at all or take a number of years to spread. Sometimes doctors and patients come to an agreement to watch the cancer to avoid any of the unpleasant side effects of radiation therapy or surgery. Patients that choose this form of non-treatment should understand that the cancer still lives in their body and that they will need to schedule regular check-ups with their doctors to monitor the cancer’s presence in their body.
Benefits and Risks
Whichever form of treatment you choose, it is important that men understand the benefits and risks completely. Taking time to research all the available options is the advised by the medical profession. Patients should also not hesitate to collect second or third opinions before deciding on a particular treatment method.