Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer—the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men in the United States. As with any type of cancer, prostate cancer develops when the cells in the prostate gland undergo changes in their DNA. Also referred to as mutations, these changes cause the cells to grow abnormally, divide rapidly, and eventually invade nearby healthy tissue.
Prostate cancer has a fairly high survival rate, particularly when detected and treated in its early stages. Many men diagnosed and treated in the local or regional stages (stages I, II, and III)— where the cancer is limited to the prostate—can be free cancer-free in five years.
If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the treatment option your urological surgeon will recommend will depend on various factors, such as your overall health, how fast your cancer is growing, and whether it has spread.
There are seven different types of standard prostate cancer treatment methods. Let’s learn about each of them.
Active surveillance is usually recommended for older men who do not have symptoms or who have comorbidities. Active surveillance aims to avoid unnecessary treatment until symptoms appear or change. This approach uses regular screening exams and tests to check if the cancer is growing. If and when the cancer begins to grow, treatment is then apparently initiated to address the cancer.
If cancer has not spread outside of the prostate gland and if the patient is in good overall health, surgery may be recommended to remove the tumor.
There are several types of surgery used for prostate cancer. These include:
o Radical prostatectomy – removal of the entire prostate gland along with some of the surrounding tissue and the seminal vesicles. Removal of nearby lymph nodes may also be carried out simultaneously.
o Pelvic lymphadenectomy – removal of the lymph nodes in the pelvis.
o Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) – removal of tissue from the prostate using a resectoscope, which is inserted through the urethra.
Radiation Therapy and Radiopharmaceutical Therapy
Radiation therapy utilizes high-energy radiation substance to kill cancer cells or to stop them from growing, and radiopharmaceutical therapy uses a radioactive substance to fulfill the same purpose. These treatments are often an option if the prostate cancer is less aggressive or has not spread. They may also be recommended following surgery to ensure no cancer cells are left untreated.
Hormone therapy does not cure prostate cancer but may be recommended to remove or block the action of male hormones (androgen), which can cause prostate cancer to grow.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of the cancer cells, either by totally eliminating them or by preventing them from dividing. Chemotherapy can be given orally or intravenously to reach the affected area in the prostate gland.
Immunotherapy utilizes the patient’s own immune system to fight the cancer. Substances created by the body or in a laboratory are used to enhance, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer.
This type of treatment method is used to treat bone disease and bone loss when cancer has already spread to the bone.